Young Catholic devotion extending beyond parish

Young practicing Catholics are increasingly involved in “trans-parish networks” and other organizations outside the traditional parish, according to Kathleen Garces-Foley of Marymount University. Garces-Foley, who was part of the Changing Spirituality of Emerging Adults project, presented a paper at the mid-October meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in Washington, which RW attended.  Based on interview with twenty-something Catholics in the Washington, DC area, she said that these Catholics into three ways of relating to parish life. The first way consists of young people with traditional allegiance to a particular parish (although usually not to their neighborhood parish).  She found that about four D.C. area parishes were known for being open to young adults with activities aimed at this age group.  Some of them had de facto young adult services, but other young adults were drawn to in intergenerational activities in their parishes. The second pattern consisted of young people who are not involved in one parish and are part of trans-parish networks. They frequent events at several parishes and also attend area events oriented towards young adults (such as being sponsored by dioceses or informal networks). Both of these ways of gathering are fueled both by social media and word of mouth (though they don’t find much on conventional parish websites about these activities).

These young adults are not interested in being connected with one particular parish and are not looking for one particular one; Garces-Foley said that this pattern is not “parish shopping” as much as “parish hopping.”  They are also pretty exclusively interested in spending their religious time with other young adults.  There are several metropolitan areas, such as Atlanta, Washington, Kansas City, and Chicago, which are known for having young adult Catholic scenes with very active trans-parish networks. Thirdly, a smaller number of young people Garces-Foley interviewed were linked with non-parish organizations that formed the center of their religious life, such as the Opus Dei-run Catholic Information Center in Washington. Some were very involved in devotional activities, such as daily Mass, frequent confession, and Eucharistic adoration. These young Catholics were not looking for a local parish, though that may change as they grow older. Garces-Foley added that the trans-parish network model is apparent in some metro areas among young adults in some non-Catholic faith communities, such as African American Baptists. [This article is based on reporting by Perry Chang]