That’s a key finding of a survey of young people conducted by the Catholic Office for Youth and Young Adults.
Data gathered from an online survey and a series of forums called Raise Your Voice has been analysed and put into a report compiled by COYYA coordinator Peter Bierer.
He says most responses at the forums focused on social justice issues.
“It is clear that young people desire to see a more just and equitable society for all people,” Mr Bierer writes in Listening to the Voices of Young People.
“Young people connect to their faith in particular through social justice, service and charity. Young people view acceptance of all people, particularly those who identify as LGBTQ+, as a significant social justice issue.”
Mr Bierer says young people recognise that within the Church people are being marginalised and left out, and that this is contrary to Catholic Social Teaching regarding respect for the life and dignity of the human person.
They include themselves as a marginalised group in the Church alongside people who identify as LGBTQ+, women and the poor.
“Young people are calling on the Church to be welcoming, inclusive, and accepting of those on the edges of their communities and the whole of society. Young people want to feel valued by the Church at all levels, for who they are, not just who they will become.”
Asked what worries they had about the future, the issues listed by young people were acceptance and inclusivity (183 responses), climate change and care for creation (85), employment (85), inequality (81), peace and conflict (63), mental health (61) and miscellaneous (155).
Survey participants indicated they wanted to be “actively involved” with the Church but they felt either disconnected from the faith community or believed there were not enough opportunities to be involved.
“Young people are looking for communities that will welcome them, recognise them for their gifts and contributions, and empower them to be leaders in the community,” Mr Bierer says.
“Young people want to see the Church update and adapt to contemporary society.”
Opportunities identified in the report include increasing the number of youth groups, better use of social media, employing youth ministers, improved music and preaching, and involving young people in activities and decision-making.
The report also says young people have a desire to learn more about the faith and are asking for faith formation from the Church.
Respondents referred to the difficulty of being open about their faith with friends and the struggle of being Christian in an increasingly secular society.
One of the primary requests they have of the Church, according to the responses, is guidance and support. Comments included “we need encouragement from the Church” and “it is disheartening when we aren’t supported in our faith”.
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In his observations, Mr Bierer says young people are looking for “a vision, a mission, and a way of life that engages them at a personal level and invites them into an accepting and loving community”.
“The problem is that young people will leave the Church when they perceive that this vision is not valued or exemplified in their local schools and parishes, and in the diocesan and global Church,” he says.
“They will find other ways to seek the ‘peaceable kingdom’…the Church must inspire young people with the Gospel, not only in word, but more importantly in action.”
The full report is available on the COYYA website www.cathyouthadelaide.org.au.