You may have noticed a significant lack of youth in Catholic churches lately. As a millennial and a cradle Catholic, I may be able to offer some insight into why so many young people leave the Church at this point in their lives. Most of the people I went to high school with are no longer practicing Catholics, and their process of falling away started in high school or earlier. There could be many reasons for this, from lack of strong examples in their home lives, to wanting to assert their individuality, to simply becoming disillusioned with the faith for whatever reason.
I never experienced this falling away, and I attribute that to several factors. Firstly, I had great adult role models in my immediate family. Secondly, I had wonderful formation in my early teens. The Madeleine Choir School recently had the opportunity for parents to experience a “Mr. Glenn religion class.” While I joked at the time that the participants wouldn’t get the full effect unless they sat on metal folding chairs and took copious notes from the old overhead projector, I think it was a great idea. Being in one of Mr. Glenn religion classes was like being in a college-level theology course. Of course, religion classes at Judge seemed very rudimentary after that, which could have contributed to some of my former MCS classmates leaving the church.
However, I feel like the music background I got at the Choir School set me on a path to stay in the Church. I continued to participate in choirs in high school, joining the Saint Ambrose Parish choir my junior year. I’ve been involved in our parish music ministry ever since to varying degrees.
Music is what has kept me in the Church. I was reminded exactly why this was at the Mass for Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Monday at the Carmelite convent. A group of us sang who have all been touched by Choir School training in some way. I have written before about going back to the roots of our faith when I sing the traditional Latin texts and chants. Monday night gave me another opportunity to do this. The most touching parts of the Mass for me though were times when I wasn’t singing. Hearing the nuns chant the Sequence from the cloister, and hearing Fr. Christopher Gray and a seminarian from Texas chant the solemn form of the Salve Regina at the end of Mass really gave me a taste of what it might be like to live in a religious community.
The important thing here is that young people need to find an aspect of Church life that they can be involved in that they are passionate about. They need something to rejuvenate their spirituality as they grow into adulthood. I was lucky that I found mine at a relatively young age. I realize that I had it pretty easy when it came to finding my niche in Church life. Many young people do not have the same opportunity. That is why it is important for the adults in their lives to encourage young people to continue to explore the faith and discern their calling.