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A few months ago I watched a webinar recording entitled “Going, Going, Gone” given by Dr. Bob McCarty. He was discussing the research done in conjunction with St. Mary’s Press about why young Catholics have disaffiliated. One of the phrases he uses repeatedly is, “Belonging leads to believing.”

This research study done by Springtide that I’m currently reading supports this as well. As I’m reading this short book my heart is breaking for our young people. And they aren’t the only ones experiencing loneliness. Great Britain recognized this a few years ago when they appointed a Minister of Loneliness.

Whenever I hear a discussion of a disconnected generation, the next phrase usually has something to do with social media and phone use. A paraphrase of, “If kids these days weren’t online so much, they’d be happier.” The research showed that teens who had never had access to social media showed up in the same way as those who did. For what it’s worth, those who attend religious gatherings regularly showed up similarly as well.

So what made a difference? What was the significant factor in whether a young adult experienced loneliness and social isolation? They asked “where” they felt like they belonged. But the answer wasn’t “where” it was “who.”

The factor that made a difference is us, it’s you. It’s the number of trusted relationships they have in their life. The number of people they can turn to in times of need.

Why do I bring this up today? “Engaging Young People” is one of the top three things I hear as a desire from parishes. They think a program or activity or service project is going to work. If those things act as a way for young people to develop “trusted, belonging relationships” with others, then yes they are part of the answer. They are the tool that facilitates the deeper need.

So the question is, “How are you developing trusted, belonging relationships with young people in your parish?” Even more than that, how are you developing these relationships with people of all ages in your parish? Those who are engaged and those who are disengaged?

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