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Fr. David Dwyer, host of a New York City-based “Busted Halo Show” on Sirius Satellite Radio, and Bustedhalo.com, an online magazine for ‘spiritual seekers,’ delivered a reflection about Vatican II’s message “To Youth.”
He shared several predominant characteristics of today’s youth—which the Church defines as those between the ages of 18 and 39. Referred to collectively as the Millennials, this demographic group’s reliance on high technology— which is ever-changing— and fast-pace lifestyle must be addressed when parishes determine how to minister and include them into the fold. He pointed out that although only 23% of them attend Mass regularly, and 8% participate in parish ministries, as a whole, they are not angry at the Catholic Church. Fr. Dwyer asserts that many young people don’t know what the Catholic Church believes in.
Marie Buckley traveled from Hopkinton, MA, to attend the conference at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield and the Paulist Press. Employed as a pastoral associate for the Archdiocese of Boston, Buckley was pleased by the conference’s presentations. “I think that any time people from different age groups come together, it’s worthwhile,” she said.
Buckley also enjoyed listening to the opening day’s keynote speaker, Dr. Massimo Faggioli, an assistant professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas. “He was an ideal choice for setting the tone of the conference,” Buckley said. “He really put Vatican II in historical context for us.”
Elyse Raby, a 2008 graduate of Fairfield University, appreciated having the opportunity to learn more about Vatican II. “Because I am a young person, I feel I have a responsibility to understand the significance of the document.” After listening to the conference’s speakers, Raby said she has “a greater appreciation of how far we’ve come.” Raby presently works in Fairfield University’s Center for Catholic Studies and Center for Faith and Public Life.
Gregory Vigliotta said the conference provided valuable insights. A 2008 graduate of Sacred Heart University, Vigliotta said, “For me, this has been a
learning experience and I’ve seen how much movement the Church has made in 50 years.”
However, both Raby and Vigliotta also feel the Church has some way to go, especially how effectively she integrates its younger population into parish life.
Vigliotta said he would like to see commissioned catechistinstructors implemented in local parishes. “We need our older adults,” he said. “I hope the Church will begin to invest in those who are passionate about teaching young adults.”
Following Fr. David Dwyer’s talk, Buckley asked Vigliotta and Raby, who were seated at her table, if they felt “well represented” by the priest’s assertions about today’s youth, though Fr. Dwyer noted he was speaking in generalities.
Raby said she was among the 8% of youth who regularly participate at her Fairfield parish. However, she also noted that more could be done to integrate
young people into life in the parish community.
Though she and Vigliotta were warmly welcomed at SHU’s conference, as Millennials they were in the minority. Moreover, wellmeaning, older folks commented that they were happy the young people were present because they were the Church’s future. “I am here right now,” Raby said. “We are part of the whole Church right now, today.”
During a question and answer session, Vigliotta brought this topic up. Fr. Dwyer suggested that people of all ages should be represented on all parish committees. “We need to get in the same room together,” Dwyer said. “We don’t want to be afraid of mixing the soup.”
Fr. Dwyer suggested that parishioners invite young people to join them by name, as Jesus did. “Engage young adults when you see them at church by saying, ‘We’re glad you’re here.’”
Jessie Beard, of Oxford, felt informed and inspired by the presentations. “I hadn’t heard about Vatican II in many years,” she said. “I enjoyed the talks very much. It made me see a different aspect of the Council.”
Michele Curnan, director of religious education at Holy Trinity Parish in Sherman, was also pleased she attended the conference. As Vatican II revitalized the Church, the SHU conference made her feel “more nourished to go on.”
“It’s nice to come to something like this and be with people of like minds,” Curnan said.