Have you ever sat in the pew on Sunday, listened to the homily and wished that it seemed a little more relevant to your life?
If so, you’re not alone. Many people, especially those in their teens, 20s and 30s, feel disconnected from the church, according to Michael Theisen, diocesan director of youth ministry. When people have a hard time relating their faith to their everyday life, they’re less likely to attend Mass regularly.
“Those are the people that we’re missing in the pews. Parishes are very concerned about including and reaching out to them,” Theisen said.
Although 16-year-old Emily Carlock is not missing from the pews and is active in her parish — St. Patrick’s in Mount Morris — and the Diocesan Youth Committee, she does agree that most homilies do not seem geared toward teens and young adults. In November, Emily and most of the other DYC members had the opportunity to change that, at least temporarily, by participating in First Thoughts.
First Thoughts is one component of a new, two-part program called Evangelizing Liturgies, which was jointly developed by the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Catechesis and the diocesan Office of Liturgy. Through First Thoughts, various people from throughout the diocese were asked to read and respond to the Sunday readings for Lent.
First Thoughts participants were asked to identify words, phrases or events from the readings that stood out in their minds, what the readings reminded them of, what the readings made them want to do and how they spoke to each particular age group or situation.
“It really is remarkable how different people hear the same readings. You don’t think about that,” said Shannon Loughlin, diocesan director of young-adult and campus ministry.
Loughlin invited young adults, members of the DYC and catechumens going through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults to participate in First Thoughts. After receiving all the responses to the Lenten readings, she posted them on the diocesan Web site, www.dor.org and e-mailed them to pastors, pastoral administrators and campus ministers to use when planning homilies or as a jumping-off point for Bible studies and group reflections, Loughlin said.
Father Doug DellaPietra, pastor of Church of the Good Shepherd Parish in Henrietta, said the responses gave him a “sneak peak” into the hearts and minds of young people. The responses helped him choose life examples to include in homilies that would hopefully speak to teens and young adults, he said.
“Those that preach at weekend liturgies do, or should, realize that we are offering an explanation of the Gospel message in today’s words and language to several different generations. So, to speak one general message and expect that it will be heard and experienced the same by all present is just not realistic,” Father DellaPietra said.
Gather Us In, the second component of Evangelizing Liturgies, includes two workshop opportunities meant to help parish liturgy-planning teams create liturgies that “speak to the younger generations,” Theisen said. The workshops will include topics on preaching, music and facilitating more youth involvement, which Theisen said are the critical areas that parishes need to work on in order to remain vital.
“We’re looking at this as a step in an ongoing commitment that we all need to be working together on,” he added.
Virginia Miller, associate director of the Office of Liturgy, said the goal of Gather Us In is to make “all of our liturgies prayerful and evangelizing and something that can make a difference in our lives. It’s important to keep our youth involved and prepare them to be the future participants and leaders in worship in our parishes. They are … the future of the church. We need to help them stay involved now and prepare them for that role.”
For more information on the Evangelizing Liturgies program, visit www.dor.org and look under either the Evangelization and Catechesis tab or the Liturgy tab.