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Whither RCIA? Part Two: Millennials Rising PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 31 August 2009 09:06
Continuing from the post below: Whither RCIA? Part One.

There are three big factors that are widely recognized to affect who does and does not enter and finish the RCIA process in the United States: age, marital status, and education - and each affects the other.

Age: First of all, the majority of those who enter the Church through RCIA are on the young side. 48% enter by age 29. 64% by age 39. > (And here our little Catholic Studies Group thought of ourselves as pioneers since we knew of so few who had done what we were contemplating doing and it turns out we were just walking statistics! It's harder than it seems to be really original. . . )

That means that the first half of the Millennial cohort is in prime RCIA age range (19 - 29). Millennials are a large group demographically: 60 million strong, born between 1980 and 2000 (the exact dates are debated but this is a common benchmark) and more than three times the size of Generation X. Second in size only to the Boomer generation.

What do we know about Millennial Catholics as a group? Well, at least half of adult Catholics today are either Gen X or Millennials and that percentage is getting higher every day. But only 40% of millennial Catholic adults are certain you can have a personal relationship with God - the lowest number of any Catholic generation.

So it is no surprise that the percentage of the Millennial generation who "practices" their faith by attending Mass at least once a month is also the lowest of any Catholic generation. Here, the numbers are a bit confused since CARA gives two somewhat different sets of figures on their website. One is bad and the other worse. After much reading of the fine print, I think I've figured it out.

In a graph featured on their website, CARA indicates that 36% of Gen Xers "practice" and 15% attend Mass weekly while 34% of Millennial adults "practice" and about 17% will be found at Mass on a weekly basis. And that overall, about 23% of Catholics attend Mass weekly. These figures seem to be from 2005 surveys.

In October, 2007, as part of their study of marriage, CARA published new and grimmer figures:

21% of all Catholics attend Mass at least once a week. (We have to remember that that is 21% of those who retain the identity, whether they were raised Catholic or converted to the faith. About 32% of those "raised" Catholic no longer consider themselves to be Catholic.)

45% of the Pre Vatican II generation (65+) attend Mass at least once a week. 20% of Boomers. 13% of Gen Xers. 10% of Millennials.

The margin of error could be a factor here since the number of Millennials surveyed was smaller (since only half are adults today) and that raises the 3.1 margin of error. But clearly, the movement is not in the direction we would like to see.

Let's take a moment to really consider the implications of this. 50% of Catholic adults are either Gen Xers or Millennials in 2009. Obviously that percentage will only grow. And both groups are teetering on the edge of weekly single digit Mass attendance. And all the studies indicate that weekly Mass attendance is linked to a host of other desirable outcomes.

The implications for Catholic marriage and the whole "the sacraments will bring 'em back" scenario are eye-opening. 40% of married Gen X and Millennial Catholics were not married in the Church. It is no surprise, therefore, that the number of Catholic marriages in the US has dropped 25% over the past 7 years. If the majority of those at prime marriageable age - their 20's and 30's - seldom or never darken the door, why should we expect them to come back just to get married?

Which has big implications for RCIA because marriage and family is the primary reason that the majority of adults enter the catechumenate. It begins to make perfect sense that RCIA numbers and marriage numbers are falling together.

Part Three: the Marriage Factor

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