#Awakenthehunger is more than just a social media hashtag for Katie Pesha and her colleagues at KP Consulting Group. In fact, awakening the hunger for Christ among the faithful is one of the most important outcomes we expect to achieve when we collaborate with parishes, schools and other Catholic institutions. We know that goodness builds upon goodness when we “awaken the hunger” in our faith-based communities.
I kept thinking of the “awaken the hunger” imperative as I read the recent five-part survey on religious attitudes and practices from the Catholic news website called The Pillar. As a lifelong Catholic, I experienced a range of emotions as I read through the comprehensive survey. Some of the survey results were edifying, while other results left me sad, concerned, and even angry. (I admit to channeling the beginning of the third chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, in which he wrote: “O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you…?”)
But in the end, my predominant sentiment was one of recommitment. Of fervency. Of the need for all of us – as Katie implores – to awaken the hunger.
A few of the trends identified by the survey that seem the most daunting:
“Among those born during the 1960s through the 1980s, an average of 14% describe their religious affiliation as ‘nothing in particular.’ But among those born since 1990 that number rises to 20%.”
Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed who were raised in the Catholic faith left it, and only 7% who indicated they were Catholic noted that they were converts to the faith. The 7% number was the lowest of all the religious traditions identified.
While 33% of American children born in 1965 received Catholic baptisms, only 15% of children born in 2019 were baptized Catholics – this despite the fact that total U.S. births have remained relatively stable over that time span.
Some more frightening data:
Of those who identified as Catholic, just 81% indicated they “definitely believe in God,” and only 56% affirmed the belief that heaven exists.
Only 41% of surveyed Catholics agreed with the statement: “I believe the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ.” And lest you think this result was skewed by self-identified Catholics who rarely or never go to Mass, the at-least-weekly-Mass-going percentage in agreement with the statement was only slightly better, at 50%. Among Catholics born in the 1990s, only one in four agreed with the statement.
In one sense, then, it probably shouldn’t be too shocking that, as the survey noted, “[t]he number who attend Mass weekly – in person or via streaming – has decreased 14% since Covid. The number of Catholics who never go to Mass has increased by 62%.”
Regarding this last statistic, the survey authors offered additional detail: “Suppose that before Covid-19, there were 100 regular weekly Mass-goers at your normal Sunday parish Mass. Today:
11 are going between one and three times a month.
Two are only going a few times a year.
One is down to once a year.
Eight now say they ‘never’ go to Mass.
Of course, there are some new faces in the pews too:
10 people who used to go less frequently are now going to Mass at least once a week.
But the total number of people at Mass is smaller. Only 86 are showing up every week, where before there were 100.”
What’s the point of all this?
Friends, we understand that Christ is victorious and that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. But we also recognize that we have work to do to #awakenthehunger… among the faithful still in the pews, and also among those on the peripheries. The Gospel mandate calls us to do better – to be nothing less than the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
This “New Evangelization” – which, frankly, really isn’t so new anymore – requires active engagement from the faithful. And, as the survey results demonstrate, it likewise requires a sense of urgency. If not us, who? If not now, when?
Katie Pesha and her team have developed a solid track record for helping parishes, schools and other Catholic institutions foster and support such engagement, and the results have been wonderful to see.