No Church for Young Men, by Eric Sammons

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Image: “Seminarians in Barcelona circa 1900 in Cassock, Greca & Saturno” via the Brighton Oratory

By Eric Sammons, Crisis Magazine, January 9, 2020

Eric Sammons, a former Evangelical, entered the Catholic Church in 1993 and has been involved in Catholic evangelization efforts for over two decades. He is a freelance writer, editor, and the author of several books, including The Old Evangelization: How to Spread the Faith Like Jesus Did (Catholic Answers, 2017) and Holiness for Everyone: The Practical Spirituality of St. Josemaría Escrivá. He holds a Master of Theology degree from Franciscan University. He can be followed on Twitter @EricRSammons and his website “Swimming Upstream” can be found at

Eric Sammons

“Children are the future of the Church.” How often are such truisms used to explain the extensive focus on a single demographic group within a parish? From youth ministry to religious education to Catholic schools, most Catholic parishes direct a large amount of their limited resources toward young people. After all, if our children fall away, the future of the Church will be dire indeed.

Of course, the future of the Church is dire, demographically speaking. In spite of all this focus on young people, we see them flocking for the door once they reach adulthood. The problem isn’t bad or incompetent youth ministers; I’ve known many good and sincere Catholics involved in youth outreach, who work long hours and are committed to bringing kids to Christ. Yet, to repeat, it’s not working. Once free from their parents’ direct influence, kids are leaving the Church.

So, if the problem isn’t a lack of focus or competent and sincere leaders, then what is it? I would argue that our model for reaching young people is fatally flawed.

I know that even suggesting that our current model of youth ministry is flawed will raise the hackles of the Catholic professional class, in spite of the current model’s evident failure. For some reason, youth ministry is a sacred cow. However, we can’t avoid the grim reality of millions of Catholics growing up and then moving out, even after having been involved in “good” youth ministry. Surely many youth programs are orthodox and very well-intentioned. This is my point. So why are young people still leaving? And how can we change this?  ….

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