Illustration by Ena Goquiolay

Defending Church a top priority among young people, CCO survey finds

  • March 1, 2018
Young people are calling for more outreach from the Catholic Church.

According to a national survey conducted in January by Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO), the top three areas young people believe are most important for the Catholic Church are: defending the truths of Catholicism, finding relevant ways to engage the world and evangelization/missionary work. Each of those areas were identified in about 60 per cent of the responses.

When asked, "As a young person, which issues do you find tension and/or struggle with in today’s world?", 79 per cent said life issues, including abortion, physician-assisted death and stem cell research. That was followed by sexuality and marriage issues (78 per cent) and human rights and dignity (68 per cent).

“Perhaps, at times, there can be statements made (by secular society) that certain issues with respect to life and human dignity, that these are issues that are closed and that we don’t need to talk about them, but I think that this survey shows that there are a number of young people that really do want a space to talk about them,” said CCO president Jeff Lockert.

About 670 youth between the ages of 16 and 29 years old responded to the online survey. It was first announced during CCO’s national young adult conference RiseUp (Dec. 28-31). Lockert launched the survey to invite young people from across the country to share their thoughts on this fall’s Synod of Bishops on Young People in Rome.

“The synod itself was inviting feedback through a variety of formats but the Holy Father also requested for young people to make their voice known and so we wanted to give that opportunity as well to young people in Canada,” said Lockert.

Last year, individual dioceses were tasked to consult with the youth in their region using a Vatican questionnaire included in the synod preparatory document. All reports were submitted to Canada’s Apostolic Nuncio in October, which were then passed on to the Vatican.

Lockert said announcing the survey at RiseUp 2017 was a unique opportunity to take the pulse of young people from across the country in one dataset. CCO is a non-profit organization that runs campus ministry programs in colleges and universities in Canada. RiseUp is an annual event that brings together CCO campus groups from across the country with a week-long conference full of Catholic speakers and workshops.

More than half of the survey responses came from attendees of the RiseUp 2017 conference. Lockert decided to extend the deadline of the survey until Jan. 31 in order to invite CCO’s campus networks to participate.

The majority of respondents (about 68 per cent) believe young people have a lot of influence in society. About 31 per cent said they have a little influence.

An overwhelming 93 per cent agree that it is essential for young people to take an active part in society. However, the survey also indicates that only half of respondents feel it is important to be a leader.

“I do think there’s a bit of a disparity there,” said Lockert. “As we look at (the results) a little bit deeper, maybe young people need more encouragement to be called into that leadership. They may believe they should have an active role in society but maybe they don’t quite see that they can have an active role.”

A deeper dive into the data revealed that those who feel it is important to be a leader also identify as a CCO leader.

The survey indicates 38 per cent of those who said they are not involved with CCO believe it is important to their future to be a leader.

Among those who identify as CCO leaders, 68 per cent believe in the importance of being a leader.

“So if you just compare the top two quadrants there, 38 versus 68, in coming through an experience of being invited to be a leader and given the opportunity, it increases their sense of being a leader is important for their future,” said Lockert.

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