This past June all of the priests of this Archdiocese were summoned down to Rochester to meet for our Biennial Presbyteral Assembly. This year’s theme was Ministering to Millennials, which was fascinating to me since I, myself, am a millennial. The four-day conference began by revealing to us the staggering statistics of the increase of what modern historians have dubbed the “Nones”: people who say they have NO religious affiliation. This new demographic of society is largely the Millennial Generation (those born between 1981-1996). As of 2018, these “Nones” have surpassed those who profess to be evangelical Christians in America.
After presenting the dismal backdrop of the society that we as a Church are called to minister to, the next presenter took the stage. She offered to us priests some fascinating solutions on how to bridge the gap in ministry to the Millennial Generation; however, she warned us that it would require changes in our parishes.
So I am writing to you as a parish today to see what your thoughts are on some of her suggestions to the Presbyterate of our Archdiocese. I want to see if you are open to making some adjustments to how we do things at Nativity of Mary for the purpose of bringing into our community an entire generation that is moving more and more towards no affiliation with religion.
The first thing that the presenter suggested was that when we host social events to have healthy food and drink options available. She mentioned how Millennials are known for being more health conscious. Thus, when we have parish events it is a must to have fruit/ vegetables/ healthier snacks and sparkling water for a beverage. Simply having these options makes the parish seem that we too care about the Body, not just the Soul of the human person.
The other event-driven advice surrounds how we advertise events at the parish. The presenter stated that we should say that any given event is simply for a limited time. She interestingly referred to the modern phenomenon of F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out), which drives a lot of the decisions that Millennials regularly make. Because of the heavy use of social media among Millennials, there exists an underlying fear that they may miss out on what is out there so they should rush to be a part of it ASAP. Thus, prolonged programs do not usually appeal to the Millennial crowd, seasonal ones with limited availability do however.
The next section of the presentation surrounded access to the Sacraments. Our presenter said, “Fathers, if you are not offering at least ONE daily Mass in the evening at your parishes you are missing a bunch of Millennials, let alone other people who do not have mornings free, who would come to daily Mass but they can’t because they have jobs and kids to take care of in the morning and can’t get there. By simply moving ONE of your morning Masses to the evening you will pick up an entire demographic that doesn’t have access to the Mass on a regular basis.” She also added, “and in regards to the Sacrament of Confession, no Millennial, let alone a vast majority of the general populous, is going to be able to make a 45-minute window on a Saturday afternoon. You have to offer confessions during times where Millennials, and the average person, are driving to work or dropping off kids for school. If you priests believe that the sacraments are important to your people, then offer them to all your people, not just the ones that can make it.”
Honestly, hearing these points from the presenter made a lot of logical sense, and also resonated with my experience from my Millennial peers. If we want to reach this demographic it will mean that our parish will have to make some changes to how we are currently ministering. I would ask for your feedback on this, and to know if this is indeed a desire of our community to aim at evangelizing a broader section of society, and if so, are we willing to make the sacrifice of change to allow for our Millennial brothers and sisters, as well as others, to be reached?
- Fr. LaLiberte
Fr Nathan LaLiberte