This past weekend, I attended a conference entitled “Lost? Twenty-somethings and the Church” at Fordham University in Manhattan. The event offered a series of panels featuring prominent Catholic figures—Peter Steinfels, Carmen Cervantes, Colleen Carroll Campbell, James Martin S.J., Tom Beeaudoin, Bill McGarvey, Tami Schmitz, and others who work with young adults in various capacities. There were also some twenty-somethings on the panels as well, offering commentary and feedback on topic presentations.
Intriguing topics they were, too: “Frenemies? Popular Culture and Catholic Culture,” “Sex and the City of God,” “An Inconvenient Church,” and “I Stilll Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For: Yearnings of the Spirit.” All panelists had strong credentials, and offered their perspective on the relationship between young people and the Church today.
At one point in the afternoon, an issue was raised with the title of the conference itself, to wit: Who really is “lost?” Is it twenty-somethings themselves, or is it the Church? A lively discussion ensued from this debate, both on the stage and in the audience itself, which was about one-third 20-somethings and two-thirds over-age-35-ers.
It’s a good question, and one that bears continued discussion. For my part, I’d rather see the discussion take a both/and approach, rather than an either/or perspective. A church in flux, as the Catholic Church is right now, is a good thing: institutions must be open to change and growth at all times to meet the needs of the world in which it exists. The same for us. At any point in our lives, we search, seek, consider our way in the world as well as how our faith fits into that journey. We must always be open to change, to growth, no matter what our age or place in life.
Twenty-somethings of today, the millenials, are looking for community, meaning in life, a sense of connectedness, and their purpose in life—not unlike twenty-somethings of generations before them. The culture and the challenges of living in it are different, but the human needs are not. We as Church must be ready with open arms to welcome and support young people in their journey, wherever they are. More than that, we must actively seek the seekers.
P.S. Mark Mossa, S.J., was also in attendance at the conference. Check out his book for seekers, “Already There: Letting God Find You.”