Young people of the world: Pope Francis wants to hear what you think. That’s true even if you’re not Catholic or if you’ve stepped away from the church.
In preparation for the fall 2018 Synod on Young People and Vocational Discernment, dioceses around the globe are reaching out to teens, 20-somethings and 30-somethings and asking about their relationship with the Catholic Church. The answers may influence ministry all over the globe, including Oregon.
Workers at the Archdiocese of Portland Pastoral Center already have heard from scores of young adults who have taken the survey at sharewithfrancispdx.com. Questions — in English and Spanish — seek demographic information, plus reasons young Catholics may have stopped going to Mass. Another question seeks information on what young people find important in parish life.
“This survey will help us do a better job of evangelizing and bringing the kingdom about among young adults,” says Jason Kidd, director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the archdiocese.
Kidd, who is 36, says young adults seem to be searching for meaningful community they have not found in bars and gyms or on social media. He thinks the church is well suited to be that community, but needs to find a way to create a “safe space” for young adults who are exploring life.
Survey answers will be consolidated into a report to be sent to church officials. Both the Vatican and the archdiocesan pastoral center will use the information to craft policy and outreach. The survey comes as the archdiocese is seeking a new youth and young adult coordinator, after the departure of Michal Horace earlier this year.
The anonymous survey, which closes Aug. 15, asks young adults about their personal challenges and how the church might better engage young adults.
An estimated 50 percent of Catholics 30 and younger no longer identify with their religion, says the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.
“People might feel they have the freedom to vent their hurt or past experiences that made them leave the church,” says Sandy Martinez, 25-year-old administrative assistant at the pastoral center. “Once they get a chance to get it out, it makes them more open to hearing the message.”
Survey answers will help guide the local church as well as the universal church, says Miriam Marston, a coordinator in the archdiocese’s Office of Pastoral Ministries. The survey helps bridge the gap between the pastoral center and people in the pews, says Marston, who is 36. She says one task for the church is to find ways to meet the needs of people who move around often, a distinctive characteristic of young adults.
“There is tremendous potential among the young adult community for leadership in the parishes,” Marston says.
“A lot of young adults find it difficult to find a place in the parish,” explains Kelsey Rea, 29-year-old coordinator of the Office for People with Disabilities for the archdiocese. “But they want to serve.”
Youth and young adult ministry is one of six pastoral priorities in the archdiocese.
Though the young adult survey is the focus, there also are surveys at sharewithfrancispdx.com for teens, parents and church leaders.
For a video about the consultation, click here.