My Dear Friends,
Last November, Father Robert Spitzer (of EWTN fame) made a presentation at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) regarding a new supplemental module series for youth confirmation entitled 7 Essentials.
This module was designed to supplement, not replace, existing confirmation curricula. 7 Essentials focuses mainly on the issues which cause an increasing number of young people to abandon religion. National surveys from the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. have shown that religion is on an incredible decline, especially with our youth. The most recent data shows 40% of young people aged 18-29 chose “none” as their religious affiliation. This is up from 23% in 2006, and if this rate continues, the projections will climb 50% in the next five to 10 years if left unabated.
For this reason, Andrea Hoisl, the director of faith events for our diocese and I have contacted Father Spitzer’s regional director for the northeastern U.S. to present Father Spitzer’s modules to our PK-Grade 8 teachers/administrators, our high school campus ministers, and the directors of religious education next month. The modules have even been modified for our middle school teachers, and we were told that they would be useful for our elementary and early childhood teachers to create awareness and instill the lessons in our younger grades in a more digestible manner.
The research showed that this mass exodus of our youth from religion is being driven by secular myths that misstate or misrepresent the facts. The myths basically indicate that science has proven that God doesn’t exist; humans are merely a conglomeration of atoms with no souls; suffering proves that there is no God; and that Jesus was human, but not divine.
Father Spitzer, in his modules, counteracts every one of these myths and so wonderfully argues that science has proven that God exists. He has even debated the late Stephen Hawking on this subject on national television in 2010. His modules cover evidence of a soul from medical studies; God’s existence from science and philosophy; and Jesus’ resurrection and divinity. They also answer the questions regarding why one should be Catholic and why an all-loving God would “allow” suffering.
Mrs. Hoisl and I are firm believers in being proactive vs. reactive, and are working together to not only keep our students interested in the faith, but to also nurture the desire to be lifelong learners of our faith in an effort to counteract what is happening across the country. As Saint Paul tells us, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
May we all work together to plant the seeds of faith in our youth and nurture that faith always.
Henry Fiore, Jr. Superintendent of Schools