This week I will be discussing the place of the parish in supporting the faith of its members who are away at college.
First, the obvious, and unfortunate, fact: Most parishes take little interest in the spiritual growth of their college-age parishioners, especially those who are residing at a university away from home. "Isn't that what those Newman Centers are for?" Well, yes ... if the student ever finds his or her way to the Newman Center. Many a young Catholic who was dragged to church in high school by his parents has not developed the initiative, or the moral conviction, to keep going to Sunday Mass when no one is dragging them. (And we will wait until next week to consider the growing percentage of Catholic parents who don't require their high school-age children to attend Mass.)
August Urgency: This very week, even as we type, there is a narrow "window" of time across America's universities, typically lasting just a few days, when freshmen are willing to make new friends in the residence hall, add new texting addresses, check out a campus club, ... and put Mass into their regular Sunday schedule. By this time next week, the window will be closed, the basic rhythm of weeknight studies and weekend partying will be set and, if Mass is not yet in the Sunday routine, it most likely never will be.
Tomorrow: Good news! Some creative initiatives to keep our college-age Catholics alive in the Faith.