Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 23, 1976 when Archbishop Henry J. O'Brien passed away.
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Catholicism is under siege. What concerns me most is that the assault is not by the forces of radical or extremist religious groups, but by the effects of our secular society on my contemporaries, the millennial generation in America.

According to a 2015 Pew Research Study, the “nones,” or those American adults professing no faith affiliation, constitute 23 percent of the population. The growth of the “nones” has put them ahead of the number of professed (if not practicing) Catholics in America, which constitutes 21 percent. Pew’s previous study, in 2008, put the “nones” at 16 percent of the adult population and Catholics at 24 percent. The most troubling figures of these surveys show that, among younger millennials (birth years 1990-1996, ages 21-27), just 56 percent call themselves Christians, even though 80 percent were raised in religious homes.

Most researchers and demographers define millennials as those born from 1980 to the mid-1990s. This generation has also been called the “echo boomers,” in reference to their being the children of boomers.

As mid-generation millennials, born in the 1980s, my wife and I are building a family of our own. Our son Daniel was born in 2014, and we welcomed a healthy daughter on Father’s Day, June 18. Having spent the time and effort over a number of years developing and deepening our own Catholic spirituality, it is important to us to have godparents for her who are part of our faith community of practicing Catholics. Despite the fact that my wife has two sisters and I have two brothers and a sister, we struggled to find godparents who fit the bill.

All of our siblings left the faith long ago. We extended the search for godparents to our college friends, my law school classmates and people in our hometown, and still we have struggled. This led us to a greater conversation about what it means to be millennial and a practicing Catholic in America. Where has our family gone? Where have our friends gone? Why have they left the Church we were all raised in together? What could bring them back?
I believe that the culprits laying siege to Catholic millennials are modern spiritualism and a simplistic, fundamentalist view of Christianity.

To use a phrase from Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, I believe that the catechesis of the 1980s and 1990s in America was “beige Catholicism.” It was storybook simplistic, unassuming and wholly inoffensive. It was Catholicism, but often missed the vibrancy, beauty and earth-shaking implications of the faith.

As a result of the beige Catholicism we millennials were taught, many of us have not been exposed to the rich intellectualism of our tradition. It was only as an adult that I was exposed to some of the works of the foundational Christian authors and thinkers, like St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica or St. Teresa of Ávila’s Interior Castle. It was many years after being confirmed that I heard of G.K. Chesterton or Thomas Merton, or understood the Christian themes in the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis.

It was also only as an adult that I recognized that Catholicism does not require us to abandon our critical thinking skills or ignore modern scientific developments. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. Jesus Christ and his Church are the lens through which the intelligible world is given meaning, the prism through which the natural world makes sense. Our ability to examine critically the world around us, what we know, and what we do not, is the foundation of our faith.
Moreover, while millennials of our secular society are outgoing in their support of a political candidate or a secular social cause, they shy away from public displays or acknowledgements of faith or connection to a faith-based community. They believe that equality and respect for other worldviews require a public indifference or denial of belonging to the Catholic Church.

We finally found godparents for our daughter, even with the hope that the important role that they are expected to play in her membership in our faith community will bring them, as godparents, into a deeper relationship with Christ. I will continue my (sometimes feeble) attempts to live my own faith in my communities, at home, in my law practice and among my friends and neighbors. I will also heartily pray and hope that the grace of God finds the nones among us and sets them on the path of reconciliation with Christ’s holy Church, which is calling to them: “Come home, millennials.” pray and hope that the grace of God finds the nones among us and sets them on the path of reconciliation with Christ’s holy Church, which is calling to them: “Come home, millennials.”

 

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.