Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

To Evangelize Youths Who Have Drifted from Church, Go 'Where They Are'

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

To Evangelize Youths Who Have Drifted from Church, Go 'Where They Are'

Article excerpt

OMAHA, NEB. * Todd Christensen can't really pinpoint when he started to drift away from the Catholic church.

Growing up, the 27-year-old attended Mass with his family and religious education classes at St. Leo the Great Parish in Omaha.

But like so many young adult Catholics, that changed after high school when Christensen moved to Lincoln, Neb., for college. Mass became an afterthought and soon he was attending only on special occasions such as Christmas.

About a third of the nation's 96.5 million baptized Catholics have left the faith at some point in their lives, often in their teens and early 20s, surveys indicate.

During this Year of Faith and with the church's emphasis on a new evangelization, there are renewed efforts to prevent that disconnect--and to bring young Catholics back--that include personal invitations to the faith; use of the sacraments; and religious education programs that involve the entire family.

Christensen's personal invitation came from his mother, who referred him to a Catholic psychologist when he was going through a difficult breakup with a girlfriend. Meeting on and off with the counselor for about a year, Christensen said he realized he missed his faith.

Now, he's a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Omaha. "Having faith makes you feel that you're not quite as alone and gives you a sense of direction and purpose," he told the Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Omaha archdiocese.

Peers also can encourage a return to the faith. For example, personal invitations to Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation are offered through the campus ministry program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said Fr. Paul Hoesing, director of vocations and the archdiocese's liaison with college ministry at UNO and Wayne State College in Wayne. When school is in session, Hoesing celebrates a Mass for college students and hears confession on Sunday nights at St. …

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