May 17, 2023 at 9:23 a.m.

The need for ‘reverent joy’

And our call to action is to pray, reflect and speak with our parish leaders.
Tom Cronin
Tom Cronin

Our Diocese is very blessed to now have five regional young adult groups up and running across our Diocese. The past few months have been very fruitful in growing our young adult ministries and I am in awe of the power of the Holy Spirit.

I recently facilitated a strategic planning meeting in preparation to launch a sixth regional young adult group. During these meetings, I attempt to think like a 20- or 30-year-old, but I have come to the sad realization that that ship has sailed and shame on me for thinking that I know what this younger demographic needs from our Church. So, what to do? I utilize a “consultative selling” approach and ask good old-fashioned, open-ended focus group questions to determine a needs assessment.

Like many organizations, we sometimes are afraid to ask these questions because we don’t want to hear the answer. Or worse — we ask and listen, but then fail to act. No organization, including the Church, can effectively operate within the confines of the status quo. We must stay true to our doctrine and dogma, stay laser focused on our mission, but at the same time be diligent to avoid the path to managed decline.

Many research studies identify the No. 1 reason people leave the Catholic Church is from a gradual drift away from their faith, and according to Pew Research (“Faith in Flux: Leaving Catholicism” revised in February 2011) a top reason is that their spiritual needs were not being met. In fact, 71 percent of former Catholic respondents who have become Protestant claimed their spiritual needs were not being met. I do not embrace a consumeristic approach, but we must ask, listen and love those we are here to accompany on their faith journey.

Feedback from the young adult planning meeting directly aligns to research and readings I have done and includes:

• Liturgical Experience: They are hungry for a worship experience that is more reverent, intentional, and not on “auto-pilot.” They are seeking engaging and relevant homilies that boldly speak the truth. Good music — it was specifically noted that good music does not mean “guitar Masses” or contemporary arrangements, but songs that are done well and that add to the meaningfulness of the liturgy.

• Welcoming and Vibrant Community: Young adults want to belong to and worship in a warm, inviting and welcoming faith community. They are also seeking joy and a community that fosters a vibrant culture.

• Spiritual Formation: Opportunities to grow in the faith outside of the one hour per week in Mass is critical. Adoration, the Sacraments and small, faith-sharing groups are common replies in ways to better form and nurture them in their faith.

We have so much to be joyful about during Mass, most especially the true presence of Jesus, but I feel there are moments when we are hesitant to show it. I ask you to reflect on your parish experience. If you took a brutally honest and critically objective view — would you choose to stay at your parish or would you shop around?

What is the liturgical experience like? Are people smiling and looking joyful? The topic of joy is critical. It can be a challenge to balance joy and reverence. In my opinion, we need “reverent joy.” To me, “reverent joy” is celebrating something that is very special and doing it in a way that shows respect and happiness at the same time. Reverence is an acknowledgement of who God is, what He has done for us, and the joy that He brings. Ultimately, we attend Mass for one reason only — to worship and praise our Lord Jesus Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith.

Our call to action — pray, reflect and speak with our parish leaders. Do not just complain, but be part of the solution. A lot of hard work, sacrifice and time goes into parish work, which can many times be a thankless job. Planning for the future of a more vibrant Church starts today and we need to think and operate differently, but we must do it strategically and lovingly.

For more information about our diocesan regional young adult groups, please contact me or visit: Tom Cronin is the Director of Evangelization in the Diocese of Albany. Contact Tom with any questions about boosting evangelization efforts at your parish at [email protected] or by visiting Follow me on Instagram: tom_rcda


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