Written by Lana Kaczmarek, A Young Adult Parishioner of St. Margaret Mary
Earlier this month, I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, when an article about millennials turning away from their faith popped up on my screen. It was from a friend, Dane Hamilton, who helps lead our Young Adult group at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Winter Park, Florida.
He posted the article published by fivethirtyeight.com in our Facebook group page. Comments immediately surfaced after each of us read the piece. Ironically, what captured our attention was not the title, but the photo that framed it. We all recognized the glorious altar; it was the altar of St. Margaret Mary. This was the place that we all prayed and worshipped every Sunday for weekly mass and Mondays for the rosary. Following Dane’s post of the article, he wrote “The used a picture of our church. Too bad they didn’t catch the same angle with all 20+ of us during Marian Monday. Well I will confidently report that the St. Margaret Mary young adults are not going anywhere. If anything, I will be praying, planning, and leading harder for you all.”
This post struck a chord with our group. One member even commented a picture of himself reading the article while sitting in the pew of St. Margaret Mary. The article reinforced the idea that the media can create the narrative they envision by omitting the opposing view. Rather than showing an image of a crowded congregation filled with people of all ages, the authors decided to portray this story through the stripped altar and vacant pews.
As a young adult, I am fully aware of the struggles of maintaining a balance of religion and general life responsibilities. I, however, uphold my faith in my life by prioritizing groups that foster my religion. Without those, I’d be challenged to be accountable to fulfill my duty as a Catholic by spreading the good news and growing in my faith through community. I am gracious enough to partake in groups like Young Adult ministry and Among the Sunshine that help me deepen my faith and build community with those who cherish and uphold the same values as I do.
The article claimed that one reason young adults were turning away from their faith was because they never had strong ties to their religion to begin with. While I can understand that some may not be drawn to faith on their own, that does not account for all. A good example ties back to Dane. Although Dane was born and raised Catholic, he did not feel a strong connection to his faith until college.
“[In high school] my faith wasn’t important to me at all. I was literally just going through the motions in order to maintain the status quo at home. I kept my prideful thoughts and sinful habits to myself, hidden in the dark, and definitely out of the reach of my parents,” Dane said.
Toward the end of high school, Dane felt an itch that drew him to his faith. He decided to follow this feeling of the Spirit of God begging to be acknowledged and became involved in the Catholic Campus Ministry at St. Augustine’s in Gainesville. After following his heart and diving into his faith, “it’s been nothing short of an intimate story of [him] following in love with the faith that [he] never truly knew. [He] will spend the rest of his life diving deeper into the mystery that is the faith of our existence.”
Other members of Saint Margaret Mary’s Young Adult group shared their ways of maintaining their faith-filled lives.
Llelia Garcia, a 25-year-old young adult member, said that she believes a good way of maintaining her faith is frequenting the sacraments, attending church groups or volunteering. She also says that the most important way of maintaining her faith is having a good relationship with God by talking to him as a lovely friend through prayer and being thankful.
Annabeth Huff, leader of the young adult women’s group, Among the Sunshine, also shared her journey of her faith. She says that she “was raised Catholic but had very little catechesis growing up.” Like Dane, Annabeth reverted to Catholicism her freshman year of college after “discovering the truth about the Eucharist.” The fivethirtyeight article wrote that “parent’s religious identities or lack thereof can do a lot to shape a child’s religious habits and beliefs later in life.” Therefore, the article claimed that parents were partially responsible for young adults drifting away from their faith. Annabeth, however, rejects this statement through her own life. Her parents always made sure she knew Jesus loved her and that she had a place in the church, but she never was forced to pray or go to church. She never understood the personal relationship with Jesus until she sought out her faith for herself. In doing so, Annabeth redirects the conversation about young adults neglecting their faith.
The question then becomes, how or why are young adults reconnecting with their faith?