By Ron Busch
Some say that the younger generation just doesn’t measure up to past generations. As if to prove that point, Americans are often reminded of the “greatest generation” and the sacrifices they made for this country.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades spoke of the current generation of youth and young people in the church at the Lampen Lecture Series of Ancilla College on Jan. 25. After a reality check of the current state of affairs, the bishop went on to talk of the “intentional disciples” found among young people and how they have found contentment and a sense of purpose in their daily walk within the church and their personal lives. His lecture was titled, “The Role of Young Adults in Church and Society.”
Bishop Rhoades began his presentation by reviewing his just-completed trip to the Middle East and the Holy Land. He spoke of conversations with young people at Bethlehem University, which is approximately 30 percent Catholic and 70 percent Muslim. He mentioned the faith and hope that the students had, even though their situation did not foster a pronounced optimism among the youth.
He began the lecture by noting that, “Before looking at the role of young adults in church and society, it is necessary to consider the sociological realities of young adult life.” The bishop reported he had “learned a lot from (his) own personal experiences and encounters with young adults, and also from reading various books and studies, especially those of Dr. Christian Smith at the University of Notre Dame.” Smith refers to young adults as ‘Emerging Adults,’ rather than “teens and young adults.”
Bishop commented that “we must be realistic in our discussion of young adults in the church and society”. He proceeded to speak about Smith and what his colleagues call “the dark side of emerging adulthood.” This includes five areas that youth encounter as they grow into adulthood, which are outlined in the book, “Lost in Transition.”
• Morally Adrift — The majority of young adults express a highly individualistic approach to morality. This has created a sense of confusion regarding morality.
• Captive to Consumerism — A majority said that their wellbeing can be measured by what they own.
• Intoxication’s Fake Feeling of Happiness — Significant minorities of emerging adults regularly or recurrently seek to intoxicate themselves through substance abuse.
• The Shadow Side of Sexual Liberation — Young adults live in a highly sexualized culture. They are two or three generations on from the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s.
• Civic and Political Disengagement — Most youth and young adults are focused on their personal lives and few are involved in volunteer activities or charitable giving.
Recognizing that one might adopt a grim outlook after considering these realities, Bishop Rhoades spoke also about positive signs discovered in the sociological research. The bishop related that in his own experiences with young adult Catholics who are practicing the faith, he has seen a rejection of things like intoxication and sexual license as well as their active engagement in charitable activities. He stated that “many Catholic young adults are intentionally trying to follow Jesus Christ and to live by His teachings and example. Some have experienced hurt from buying into various aspects of moral relativism and consumerism and have discovered that true happiness and meaning in life requires a different path, the path of the Gospel.”
Bishop Rhoades went on to describe the young adult referred to as the “intentional disciple.” This young adult exhibits a … “living faith. In an act of the will and the intellect, these young adults have chosen to follow Jesus Christ. And they do so intentionally,” he said. The intentional disciple embraces the truth of Jesus Christ. He went on to counter the five areas with faith-filled descriptions of these young people.
“Their engagement in the life of the church is there, but they need to find opportunities in the church to be involved,” he said, concluding with a challenge to find ways for “getting our young adults more engaged across the board in our diocese and parishes.” — one of the bishop’s own, ongoing priorities. “We need their strength, intelligence, courage and enthusiasm. Their presence and witness rejuvenates and gives new energy to the church and her mission in the world.”
The bishop remained to field questions from a large and appreciative audience of adults and young Ancilla College students following the lecture.
The next lecture in the series, a topic related to mysticism, takes place Feb. 22 will be presented by Richard Daves, PhD, in the Hardesty Room at 2:10 p.m. For more information call (574) 936-8898 ext. 361. Ancilla is a small, private, liberal arts college located in Donaldson.
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