National Study of Young Confirmed Catholics

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Thu, 09/01/1994

The Catholic community in the United States has been changing over the past half century. Evidence suggests that age-cohorts are among the most significant variables in determining this change. The present study, currently in progress, concentrates on confirmed Catholics between 20 and 39 years of age young Catholics whose importance for shaping the Church of the 21st century cannot be overemphasized, but who are at present inadequately understood. A team composed of Dean R. Hoge and William D. Dinges of the Catholic University of America, Juan L. Gonzales, Jr., of California State University- Hayward, and Mary Johnson of Emmanuel College in Boston are studying young adult Catholics in the United States in order to help Catholic leaders better understand this group. The primary questions addressed by this study of young adult Catholics relate to their experiences and evaluations of the religious educations they have received, the character of their identity as Catholics, and the nature and form of their spiritual needs, topics of pivotal importance to the future vitality of the Catholic Church in the U.S. The study will gather data on young Catholics from 40 different parishes located within nine dioceses across the United States. Names of young Catholics will be gathered from parish confirmation lists, and from that group 800 telephone-interviews will be done. Of these, 400 will be with Latino Catholics. There will also be about 90 in-depth interviews. Several focus group interviews will be held at the beginning and end of the research process. The seminal research that this study involves represents the first nation- wide exploration of this very important section of the Catholic Church in the U.S. It will tell us what has happened to the Catholics confirmed between ten and twenty years ago whether or not they still consider themselves Catholic, whether they attend church or are involved in and committed to the life of their local parish. I addition, this study will explore what being Catholic means to this generation, how these young Catholics understand their religious identities. And it will seek to assess the impact of various religious forces and experiences on their lives: Parents, Catholic schools, and youth programs.