In my ministry I hear "Where are all of the young people?" very often. Some people seem convinced that young adults never set foot in their parishes. But did you know that of Catholics who attend Mass once a month or more, 91 percent of Millennials (born after 1981) and 76 percent of post-Vatican II Catholics (born between 1961 and 1981) report receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday? Ash Wednesday is one of those key moments when we have the chance to meet young adults and welcome them into a community. In the best communities the role of the "welcomer" is not relegated to a greeter at the door. It is everyone’s responsibility. So before I go to my parish to receive ashes I need to ask myself: Am I ready to meet someone new today? How will I be the face of the community for the person that God places in my path? Will I present a community that is joyful about welcoming anyone who is seeking a greater connection with our Lord? Do I expect that the person I meet will think or believe in exactly the same way that I do? Can I be open to walking with someone as they move along on their journey of faith?
As I receive my ashes on Wednesday, and begin my own journey through Lent, I am reminded of the generosity and compassion of my Lord in his encounters with others. Even when Jesus called people to go further in their faith, he did so with a deep understanding of, and love for, each of them. I too must be prepared to be open and loving with those who I encounter, and to welcome them into a community that is called to continue the mission of Jesus in the world. Blessings on this Ash Wednesday!
For more information on Catholics’ beliefs and practices about sacraments, visit http://cara.georgetown.edu/sacramentsreport.pdf.