Dramatic Increase of U.S. Adults with No Religious Preference
by Rev. Kenneth Boyack, CSP
What implications do these trends have for Catholic evangelization? Four considerations are listed below.
- Our secular culture does make an impact on the religious preference of adults, especially young adults. The number of adults saying they have no religious preference will continue to increase.
- Many who are unaffiliated or have no religious preference are seeking faith. Some feel their religious needs are not being met. When they find a religion they like and that meets their needs, they will become members.
- Catholics need to be more proactive and intentional in their efforts to invite and welcome those with no church family. Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). A parish that is attentive to the needs of seekers and that responds to those needs through personal relationships, letters of invitation, and appeals through newspapers and their parish website, will have a greater chance of connecting with the unchurched when they are seeking and open to an invitation.
- The Holy Spirit provides the inspiration and power to propel parish evangelizing ministries. Pope Paul VI’s reflection on the Holy Spirit remains as insightful and true today as when he wrote these words in 1975: “It must be said that the Holy Spirit is the principal agent of evangelization: it is he who impels each individual to proclaim the Gospel, and it is he who in the depths of consciences causes the word of salvation to be accepted and understood” (On Evangelization in the Modern World, no. 75).
Coming to know the love of Christ as a Catholic can enrich the lives of seekers enormously, offering them joy, peace, purpose, and hope. With the dramatic increase in the number of U.S. adults with no religious affiliation, Catholics today have a great challenge and a timely opportunity to share the Gospel.
Fr. Kenneth Boyack, CSP, is Vice President of the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association.