This is nothing that we didn’t already know, but a new survey (8000 respondents) compiled for the strategic planning process of the Archdiocese of Chicago identifies some key challenges that we face in the areas of evangelization and catechesis. Here are just a few findings (a complete summary is forthcoming)…
- Most Catholics who leave the faith do so by age 24. Further, in our survey, the one factor that correlated by far the most strongly with the frequency of Mass attendance as an adult was regular Mass attendance as a teenager. Those who regularly attended Mass as teenagers were the most likely to regularly attend Mass as an adult.
- With respect to evangelization, keeping our teenagers engaged in the faith has to be a high priority in our efforts of evangelization. We know that youth groups have shown to be a good way of keeping teenagers engaged, and the survey gives us some insights on what teenagers liked and disliked about Catholic youth activities, as well as what sorts of things might make them more interested in participating. Giving teens real responsibility in the life of the Church and providing significant service opportunities seem to be important ways to keep them involved in the life of the Church.
- The majority of Catholics feel at least somewhat ill-equipped regarding the passing on of their knowledge of the faith, although most Catholics seem to understand the basic concepts.
- Even more significantly, gaps occur for Catholics in the transition between knowledge and conviction – in other words, they know what the teachings are but they do not necessarily believe them.
- Catechists (in Catholic schools and in Religious Education Programs) are committed Catholics, but there are gaps in their knowledge, beliefs, and practice as well.
- We need to find ways to foster lifelong learning about the Catholic faith through more active inclusion of faith concepts in the forums accessed by most Catholics (e.g., homilies, adult sacramental preparation, etc.).
- We should identify opportunities to engage the hearts of Catholics as they mature in their spiritual lives and assist them in appropriating their beliefs.
- We should identify ways to improve the consistency of our teaching and formation about the life of faith (possible examples including better training and online modules).
Here is the memorandum from the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Chicago with regards to this survey.