BUFFALO, N.Y. - As the Catholic Church continues to deal with the priest sex abuse scandal, local parishes are trying to bring more young people in to worship. It has been tough getting younger people into the pews, but is the sex abuse crisis the main reason?
It was a topic discussed at Wednesday night’s symposium on faith at Canisius College.
"What can we be doing to reverse this decline among this, essentially lost generation in the Catholic Church?" asked Canisius College President John Hurley.
Hurley was presenting questions from the audience to the panel.
"One of the great omissions of our church in recent decades has been the failure to recognize that there are parishes that model extraordinary ways of being able to help young families with young children, of doing youth ministry," said Sister Margaret Carney, President Emeritus of St. Bonaventure University.
One parish making it a priority to reach out to young adults is St. Joe's University in Buffalo. Msgr. Patrick Keleher is the Director and Campus Minister for the Newman Center at the University at Buffalo. He was at the symposium at Canisius College and noticed it was mostly an older crowd. So, 2 On Your Side asked him, what's keeping young people away?
"The church is more local for college students and that's why, for example, last night there were mainly people over 60, actually, probably last night with that crowd. They were the people that were brought up with the church as an institution," says Keleher. "A Bishop meant something. The Pope meant something."
Msgr. Keleher says for young adults, church is more of an experience.
"What would grab their attention and get them to be more involved?" asked 2 On Your Side’s Kelly Dudzik.
"Experiences. They have to have experiences. For example, we've had a couple of Christian rock concerts here. That gets people in," says Msgr. Keleher.
"Do you think that the current situation in the diocese here has impacted youth participation or is this part of a longer trend that's been going on for a while?" asked Dudzik.
"It's part of a real trend. A real, longer trend," said Keleher. "I don't think they see it the same way as I see it, or the people there last night, it's all the church, the church. Well, their experience of church is their own personal experience, I think."
Keleher says he doesn't think the number of students attending mass regularly has dropped.