Monday, December 30, 2013

How We're Failing Our Children

I'd like you to meet a friend of mine from college. She was a cradle Catholic, born and raised in a Catholic family, very active in her parish. When we met, she was a born-again Christian. Today, she is not a Christian. Here's a description of her upbringing, in her own words:

Catholicism to you is so different from Catholicism to my parents. I definitely grew up in an actively Catholic family: church every Sunday, my mom taught Sunday school. I was in the Teen Music Ministry that played music once a week at Mass. I taught 3rd grade Sunday school when I was in high school. I was my church's, and possibly my county's, only member of the Diocesan Youth Council. I was one of two DYC members to represent the youth on the Bishop's council, whatever that was called. I attended the Christian Leadership Institute, led by my diocese, and then the next summer came back to work on the kitchen crew. The next summer, loving it so much, I volunteered to lifeguard. You really can only attend once, unless you find roles for yourself. I attended the 1999 National Catholic Youth Conference.
I did everything a teenage Catholic could do to get involved, but I didn't really know what it stood for.
When I became a Born Again Christian, I questioned Catholicism. I then learned that my parents didn't follow all of the Catholic beliefs. They used birth control, for example. So, I'm not used to knowing what Catholics actually believe.

Where did we, the Church, go wrong? Could we place part of the responsibility on her parents, for not practicing what they preached? Sure. But look at how many other adults were charged with teaching her the faith. This wasn't an apathetic teen, looking for her earliest opportunity to leave the Church. She loved it. But when questions were raised, she had no answers.

I wish I believed her story was an anomaly, but it's not. I can immediately bring to mind others - from active Catholic families - who no longer practice, some who no longer believe in God. We are failing our children. Certainly parents are the first catechists, but it's reasonable to assume that others have the opportunity to contribute a great deal.

What we are doing is not working. Retreats and songs and inspiring speakers and prayer teams are great, don't get me wrong. But unless we TEACH the faith, it cannot be learned. How to best do that, I don't know. Maybe no one does. But unless we want to continue to hear stories like my friend's, we better start working on answers.

She and I did a clown ministry in college (she's not pictured here)

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