Young adults tell their own stories about life as a Catholic today

By Nancy Frazier O’Brien
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Before participants in a Feb. 6 Woodstock Forum at Georgetown University in Washington heard from sociologists about how young adults see the Catholic Church and their role in it, they got to hear from some of the young people themselves.

Six spoke about the importance of the Catholic Church in their lives during the first of two panel discussions at the evening forum. The group included seniors at Georgetown and recent graduates of the university.

“It’s difficult to be a Catholic and to be an educated young woman in the 21st century,” said Aileen Tejeda of New York, who will graduate this year. She cited disputes she has with the church over such issues as the male-only priesthood and its teaching on homosexuality.

“But it’s scary to me to think that years from now I might be surprised to find someone who is Catholic,” she added.

Chris Paulus of Syracuse, N.Y., a finance and accounting major who will graduate this year, urged his fellow students not to get hung up on specific church teachings but to join in the Mass as a weekly celebration and a challenge.

After his cousin died of brain cancer when Paulus was 16, he said, “I always feel blessed to be alive. And I think one hour a week to be blessed and challenged is not too much to ask.”

Jeffrey Brown, a 2006 Georgetown graduate who now works for a law firm, said he felt a lot of “doubts and hostilities” over the clergy sex abuse scandal, especially when it affected his home parish in Yardley, Pa.

“I’m still grappling with some of that,” he said, “but I always feel called back to the church.”

Carrie Gladstone of Shaker Heights, Ohio, who will graduate this year, said the Catholic Church is “the community I know I can always go back to for strength and encouragement.”

But although being Catholic is “part of who I am,” Gladstone said she sometimes finds it difficult to articulate why she is Catholic instead of being a member of another Christian denomination. “Some of the things I disagree with the church on are where they differ from other Christian sects,” she said.

Like Tejeda, she said it was “frustrating to belong to something where my gender is not considered equal.” Even though she does not seek the priesthood for herself, Gladstone said she thought it should be open to women.

Pati Notario of Bethesda, Md., a 2006 graduate who now attends Georgetown Medical School, said she feels as a young adult that she “wasn’t educated enough about the doctrine of the church, about why things are a certain way.”

Father Raymond B. Kemp, a Washington archdiocesan priest who moderated the discussion, asked each panelist what role the Eucharist plays in his or her life.

“The Eucharist,” said Rob O’Rourke of Syracuse, N.Y., who is to graduate in 2007, “is what points me to an understanding of what Jesus is all about.”

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