A Time to Speak — Help young Catholics feel like they belong

Michal Horace

A 2020 study by Springtide Research found that as the number of trusted adults in a young person’s life increases, his or her reported feelings of loneliness, social isolation and stress decrease significantly. 

So how can we help them experience the love and community of our parish? 

One way to cultivate their experiences of belongingness to our community is through a simple intentional process known as “Noticed, Named, Known” developed by Springtide. 

When young people are first noticed by one or more adults, subsequently addressed by their first name and finally become known to one or more adults, they will begin to feel that they “belong” to that community or institution.  

So how can that play out in your parish? 

Next Sunday at Mass, intentionally scan the pews for youth and young adults, particularly single young adults who often sit alone. Whether at the Sign of Peace or after Mass, intentionally make eye contact and acknowledge them through a wave or a head nod. 

It’s that simple. But remember that this is a process, so there’s more. 

The following Sunday, notice them again, and this time, approach them, introduce yourself and ask them their name (and be sure to remember it!).

Your name is one of the sweetest sounds you can hear and will go a long way toward helping that young person feel like they belong. 

If you strike up a conversation, be sure to try to remember the highlights of the conversation, especially if it involves something you can follow up with later. It could be about their school or work, a sick friend or family member, a hobby or simply asking how their week was. 

Then on a subsequent Sunday, again notice the young person, say hello to him or her by name and ask a non-judgmental follow-up question based on what he or she has shared. For example, “You mentioned last week that your grandmother was in the hospital. How is she doing?” 

That simple yet powerful question demonstrates that you (representing the community) not only know this young person, but that you care about him or her. The young person’s sense of belonging grows as does their trust and commitment to the organization because of the “Noticed, Named, Known” process.    

You can make a significant difference in a young person’s life, loneliness and sense of belonging this summer. Will you commit to notice, name and know one young person at your parish this summer? 

Imagine if your parish’s entire adult community made this commitment. 

Michal Horace is the director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Youth and Young Adults. 

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