by Danielle Vaclavik
Hi, my name is Danielle and I am a grad student studying to become a Catholic ministry researcher here at DePaul. I chose this career-path because of bad ministry that led me to leave the Church and good ministry that brought me back. Upon my return, I knew God was calling me to use my love for research to serve His church. So here I am, in the 21st grade, striving to figure out what exactly helps Catholic-raised teens become Catholic adults.
My first step in exploring this question is my dissertation. For it, I am interviewing college students about their experiences growing up Catholic. As I reflect on these interviews, I notice the seeming universality of questions, concerns, and doubts teens experience as they try to figure out God, the world, and their relationship to both. I also notice what sets them apart, which is how their questions are received.
Previous-Catholics portrayed a noticeable lack of positive adult reactions to doubt. They were met with “because I said so” or punishments for daring to doubt. So, they stopped asking, they stopped exploring, and finally, they stopped being Catholic. Those who did remain Catholic reported the opposite. Current-Catholics were able to confidently go to adults with doubts. Adults would listen and share their own struggles with faith. These teens got answers in word and action on what it meant to live in relationship with God, a lifestyle they then copied and took into adulthood.
This is one of many insights of my dissertation. I hope to create a career using research to aid the efforts of those forming the next generation of Catholics. But in the meantime, I ask you to pray for me as I finish up my Phd. and thank an adult who made a difference in your faith. They are rarer than we would like to think.