Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Church wants to hear students’ opinions

By Katie Landeck

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MCT

Young adults are not going to church as frequently as they were 30 years ago.

It’s a fact that Father Randolph Calvo, 52, of the Polish National Catholic Church has come to realize during his years in the ministry, but one that he still doesn’t quite understand.

So he’s decided to ask why.

Calvo and a small group of pastors are inviting students to meet with them at 8 tonight in the Blue Wall to discuss their opinions – favorable or unfavorable – on church.

“We are trying to find out what you guys are looking for,” Calvo said. “I don’t know if it is something trivial like time or if maybe the whole idea of church isn’t resonating with young adults anymore.”

Calvo, who is organizing the meeting, hopes that students who identify with a church but don’t frequently attend services – as well as students who believe in God but don’t identify with a church – will come to the discussion.

“We are not looking for ones who have found their home, we are looking for the ones that aren’t going anywhere,” Calvo said.

In a 45-year period, the number of young adults who do not claim a religious identity has jumped from 5 to 7 percent to about 25 percent, according to the book “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us” by Robert Putnam and David Campbell.

Calvo said he worries that young people’s disassociation with church will be damaging in the long run. He said that in previous generations, people would leave the church but tended to come back once they started a family. However, now that some people aren’t having that kind of experience, he said, they may never associate themselves with a church.

He is also concerned that if people are leaving the church because they disagree with stances on issues such as gay marriage and women’s roles, then the church will never grow.

“I think the tension is getting to the point where (young people) could really make a difference,” said Calvo. “But I think a lot of young adults don’t think their voice or beliefs make much of a difference.

“If young people give up on the church then it is never going to change, and that’s what worries me,” he said.

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Polish National Catholic Church is not associated with the Vatican. Pastors such as Calvo – who supports gay rights and thinks women should have more of a leadership role within the church – have more freedom to make changes.

Every four years the Eastern Diocese of the Polish National Catholic Church holds a two-day conference to elect bishops, talk about finances and discuss pressing matters affecting the church. This year, Calvo was in charge of organizing the event, which will be held at the University of Massachusetts Campus Center starting tonight and lasting through Saturday.

According to Calvo, he made the unprecedented decision to host the conference at the college partly because of the large student body.

“We thought we might be able to take advantage of those people and feelings,” he said.

Despite wanting to know why young people don’t want to go to church, Calvo is apprehensive of the answers he might receive from students during the Blue Wall meeting tonight.

“I am worried about where they are and where the church is,” he said. “I’m worried that common ground will be too hard to find.”

Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

One Response to “Church wants to hear students’ opinions”

  1. Dr. Ed Cutting on September 28th, 2012 1:59 am

    Has anyone noticed that it is the CONSERVATIVE Protestant churches, the CONSERVATIVE wing of the Catholic church, and the CONSERVATIVE Jewish denominations that are growing?

    Does this not say something rather clearly to all?

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