Photo by Ismail Hamzah on Unsplash

Nearly half of young Catholics in a recent survey reported “little to no trust” in the Catholic Church. Only one in three reported that they attend religious gatherings besides Mass on a regular basis.

“A lot of the time I feel like I haven’t really had a sense of belonging,” said Ben, a 20-year-old who was one of 150 young people approached for more detailed qualitative interviews by researchers. “I’ve moved around a lot and haven’t had friendships that lasted that long.”

The report, “The State of Religion & Young People,” published by Springtide Research Institute, details the relationship that those aged 13 to 25 have with their faith life. Springtide’s assessment is that young people “are finding meaning and purpose in places outside of religious institutions.”

Over 10,000 young people were polled about a variety of topics including the state of their mental health, their relationship with their parents and how they perceive their faith. The report is a combined effort tackling all faiths, but Springtide also released a special edition specifically for American Catholics. A digital version can be accessed free of charge on their website.

Brother Ernest J. Miller, the vice president of mission, diversity and inclusion at La Salle University in Philadelphia, wrote the foreword to the Catholic Edition and expanded on Springtide’s goal with the report. “To bring faith to life and life to faith, we are called to help young people see that the Christian story is also our story today,” he writes. “Progressively, God proposes a new story, a future story that invites us to step out of our past. This invitation is one of creation and participation: to bring about the reign of God in our time.”

Over 10,000 young people were polled about a variety of topics including the state of their mental health, their relationship with their parents and how they perceive their faith.

About 39 percent of young people identify as agnostic or atheist. According to the report, “Catholics make up roughly one-fifth of the population of 13-to-25-year olds in the United States.” About 60 percent of young people are unaffiliated with a specific faith but claim to be at least “slightly spiritual.” Only 13 percent of all young people say they are “very religious,” and 16 percent say they are “very spiritual.”

Helen, a 23-year-old, said, “I’m not connected to a particular faith, but a generalized faith. I mean, I use prayer, but I don’t know that I would connect it to anything certain.”

Nearly one-third of young Catholics say they “do not think it’s important to have a faith community.” About 24 percent claim to be Catholic but say that they are not religious. Thirty-four percent attend religious services only once a year or less, and about one-fourth of young Catholics say they “don’t try to live out their religious beliefs in their daily lives.”

The report also polled the level of social isolation experienced by young Catholics during the pandemic. Roughly half of all young Catholics reported feeling “very isolated.” That means that, despite having access to social media and advanced telecommunications technology, “today’s young people are the loneliest on record of any generation.”

“Young Catholics need trusted adults, now more than ever,” the report concludes.

Sixty-five percent report having three or fewer “meaningful interactions” on a regular day. About 21 percent of young Catholics only have “one or fewer adults in their life that they can turn to if they need to talk.”

“I questioned my religion when I was pretty young, but a lot of my questions were kind of shut down by family members too,” Lauren, a 24-year-old, said. “So, I couldn’t really ask them. But as an adult, probably a few years ago, then I started asking questions again.”

The report’s authors observe three related trends: Young Catholics have a diminishing trust in organized religion and adults; they are looking outside of those institutions for spiritual connections; and there has been an overall increase in feelings of “isolation, stress or meaninglessness.”

“Young Catholics need trusted adults, now more than ever,” the report concludes. “Trusted adults need an effective approach—one that responds to these shifting realities and offers tools and practices for taking action.”

More from America: 

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

City and state/province, or if outside Canada or the U.S., city and country. 
When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

The latest from america

John Kerry, Biden’s special envoy for climate, gave a keynote address at the Vatican and will have a private meeting with Pope Francis.
The enchanted universe that Romeo alludes to is full of unpredictability and surprises.
Stephen G. AdubatoMay 14, 2021
I refuse the logic that insists that, by saying the occupation must end, I am with the Palestinians and against the Israelis. There is a third place, which is not “for” or “against,” and that is the place of love, a love rooted in justice.
Stephanie SaldañaMay 14, 2021
Cardinal Bo expressed his immense joy, and that of the 750,000 Catholics in this majority-Buddhist country of 52 million people, that Pope Francis has decided to celebrate Mass for peace in Myanmar on Sunday, May 16, in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 14, 2021