Thursday, April 03, 2008

Study finds active young Catholics attracted to ministry

Among the survey's findings:

Lay ministry. Nearly half of the young adults who are active in Church life say they have seriously considered working in lay ministry, compared with more than one-third of college respondents. While they have spoken about this call from God to parents, pastors, and lay ministers, two-thirds do not see a connection between lay ministry and their own gifts, talents, and career interests. Most said they were interested in youth ministry, religious education, and teaching in Catholic schools.

Vowed vocations. Many young adults in the survey-nearly half of the young men and nearly 40 percent of the women-have seriously considered the priesthood or religious life. A large majority believes the main reason for becoming a priest is to care for God's people. Following other career paths and a desire for marriage are most often cited as the primary reasons not to pursue ordination, although women are more likely also to avoid a structure dominated by men.

Questions about changing the guidelines for who can become a priest, religious, or deacon drew some surprising results. Young women in the survey did not show great interest in becoming priests if they could. Nearly a quarter of the young men would find the priesthood more inviting if celibacy were not mandatory, but many do not have an opinion about it. The required lifelong commitment does not appear to be a deterrent. The diaconate is of interest, but it is viewed as an option for later in life.

Web Editor's Note: Actually, when the question was phrased a different way, there was a surprising difference between Latino and non-Latino respondents. When the college sample males were asked "Would you be seriously interested in becoming an ordained priest if celibacy were not required?", 36% of the Latino respondents said "yes" while only 17% of the non-Latino respondents did so. Non-Hispanics, on the other hand, were more interested in the permanent diaconate which, in my personal opinion, most likely reflects the fact that this option is not being pushed or made attractive among Latino Catholics in this country through such options as deacon training programs conducted primarily in Spanish.

Attitudes about lay ministry and priesthood. Young adults, especially men, believe ordination confers a special character or status to the priest. More than half say the Church needs to move faster to empower lay persons in ministry.

Tomorrow's ministers. Young adults who are the ministers of tomorrow are active in the Church today. The survey found that the most significant indicator of interest in ministry was current involvement; few differences were based on age or marital status.

Diverse young adults want knowledge and engagement. The young adults surveyed want pastoral leaders to more actively engage them in the life of the Church. Those who are involved and active are asking for a more solid catechetical foundation. No one label describes them: some are calling for more traditional practices, while others want the Church to relate more to modern life and their personal experience.

"Underneath the differences, these young adults show deep care for their faith and an interest in the future of the Church," said Marti Jewell, the project director, who conducted the survey with Dr. Dean R. Hoge of The Catholic University of America. "Our next task is to find ways to engage them in a church for which discipleship is central and their involvement is crucial. The young adults in this study have given us some interesting ideas to think about, and point to further questions and study. It is an area of concern that affects us all."

Full text of the report: Young Adult Catholics and Their Interest in Ministry, report by Dean Hoge and Marti Jewell, 1/5/2008.

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