Looking back on my childhood, I am very grateful for the role that our parish had in my life. We prayed together, and we played together. Outside of school, the parish was everything to me and my family.
That community consists of only a couple hundred families and is the only Catholic church in that town. In a situation like that, we just had to accept our community. There was no “shopping around” for us. When you know it’s the only option, you are forced to be much happier with it.
In her wisdom, Mother Church gave us the institutions of the diocese and the parish to help distribute priests and to aid in the faith formation and nourishment of the faithful.
While it is best to register with the parish that has its boundaries for your home, we do have the freedom to go beyond the set area if we have good reason to do so.
In our personalization-obsessed society, many Catholics today treat church-selection with the same approach as selecting a restaurant. Similar to many other cities, many Austin Catholics often float from one parish to the other, usually basing their attendance on which mass they can wake up in time to make.
The parish floating approach to mass attendance distances the individuals and families from the greater family of the parish and inhibits growth with a community. This is especially common with young adult Catholics.
Young Adults and the Parish
Many theories could be proposed as to why this is true, but I’ll leave that to more qualified people who have done research. What we do need to do is take notice and take action. The young adult generation has a wealth of treasures to offer church. Most notably, they usually are the group that has the most free time to serve the church, and they are the generation that produces the most vocations for marriage and religious life.
Our parishes need to take a bolder missionary approach to reach out to young adults of their mass-attendees in a concentrated effort to promote stronger communities and more solid vocations. Our youth programs are pivotal in this to ensure a larger percentage of well-formed future young adults. Our communities also need to be welcoming and provide formation opportunities to the current young adults that have not be catechised well, if ever.
Holiness is necessary. If Jesus is the center of our parish communities, His presence will attract others. The deepest longing of all our souls is to encounter our Lord, and the parish community provides a very unique, powerful witness and reflection of Christ through each other.
Advice for Young Adults
It’s easy to to go to church just in time for mass and scoot out at the end of the mandatory hour, but your parish can be so much more than that. Looking for friends, clients, babysitters, and more? The parish is a great network of locals for personal, social, business, and spiritual connections.
Building the connections with others in your parish is part of how of the design. Jesus gave us the Church because He knew we needed community, and our union through the Mystical Body of Christ creates a hunger to grow closer to the people around us at mass.
It is understandable that this is not always easy. Sometimes we have a hunger for the social connections, but are hesitant going out of our comfort zone. It will take some effort to get past the initial hesitation to go to a new event or signing up for a new service at the parish, but it is certainly worth it.
The Place of the Parish
Our fallen nature inclines us to take it as optional and pass on giving of ourselves, but it is selfish to do so. There is joy in discovering the blessings that God gives us through the giving of ourselves to the Church. God is not outdone in His generosity.
In my last years in college and after, I too just went to mass and often didn’t return for another week. It kept my faith fairly stagnant. Now that I am 2 years at my parish, I have found so much joy and peace in investing so much of myself into my parish family. Once again, the parish has become everything to my wife and me – our parish is home.
I pray that more Catholic young adults of this diocese and of the world can discover the value of a parish.