The voices of young people. Some leave and some remain.

Leaving the Church does not mean abandoning the faith; moving away from the faith does not mean giving up one’s spirituality. Even though they are leaving the Christian community, many young people continue to feel like believers.

Robert, a young university student, says: “On a personal level I don’t feel that I have lost my faith, I think I have known a God of love who, despite everything, has not gone away, so my faith continues to be there. In my way, not with classical prayer, not as perhaps required by the Catholic faith, but in my way, I don’t feel I have lost my faith.”

The experience of faith is difficult for everyone, even for those who remain. Louis says: “I stayed in this community to ask myself many questions and to question myself a lot.”

Francis instead comments: “There are too many answers already given, compared to the urgent questions; an announcement of discovery, of surprise is necessary.”

Louis insists: “I don’t consider myself an atheist, I don’t consider myself a person who no longer believes in God, who doesn’t have a spiritual side; I simply don’t think that that is my way of praying, of being part of it, of demonstrating my spiritual side, because it is something that I experience more as an individual, relative to me and not to a group of people.

This experience of faith not only does not have a community behind it but, above all, it is lived without passing through its mediation; it is a faith that does not know the richness and effort of discussion, sharing, or internal openness to brothers and sisters in the faith and the value of a community journey.

The sense of belonging to a community is a trait that distinguishes those who have remained and know a shared faith, with the bonds, community commitments and relationships that this generates. Those who remained speak of the parish as something that belongs to them because their personal journey is closely intertwined with the common one: often, unfortunately, more with pastoral than with spiritual life.

Those who remain often have a role in the parish: through this – which is almost always educational – a relationship with the community, with its mission and its initiatives takes shape. This often gives rise to a sense of a very strong “we”, for which the community is “my community”. Yet even here a question arises: faced with a certain way of reasoning about faith and life and its questions, did those who remained do so out of faith? Is it the faith of the community that involves and convinces them, or the role they have in it?

Belonging is certainly a precious and decisive fact, as long as its foundation is the spiritual bond with the faith of the Church.

 A young woman, however, who has moved away from the parish expresses strong regret for what she experienced, for the times she shared with other young people. And even if she has left the parish community, she will always carry it with her.

The young people who remain feel a strong sense of belonging to the community and this is why they are always willing to get involved, increasingly discovering the sense of being Christian in a mission context. (P.B.)

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