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Survey: Many Catholics want to share faith, but need tools and training

J-P Mauro - published on 11/03/22

DeSales Media found that the greatest barrier to Catholic lay evangelization is a lack of education and formation training resources.

A new survey has found that more than 4 in 5 US Catholics who consider themselves “devout” would feel comfortable sharing their faith with others, but they feel largely unequipped to evangelize. The data comes from a survey of 3,200 Catholics who consider their faith “central to their lives,” conducted by DeSales Media and Vinea Research from May to December 2021.

While 82% said they would be comfortable sharing their faith with others, only 16% felt that they had strong skills in the area of evangelization. Furthermore, 56% of respondents cited a need for growth in this area among the faithful. The responses suggest several factors that could improve lay evangelization, such as more frequently seeking retreats, and utilizing technology to organize and increase community involvement.

Interior life

Catholic respondents seem to understand the spiritual value of going on retreat, but they admit that they rarely attend one. Fifty-six percent responded that they do not go on retreats, but this same portion (56%) expressed a medium or high desire to see the practice grow. The topic of self-sacrifice saw similar responses, with 63% citing little or no strength in this area and 57% expressing a medium or high desire to see more faithful “taking up their cross.”

Confession and works of mercy are two other important aspects of faith life that respondents recognized could use more attention. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they have little or no practice of reconciliation, while 43% would like to see growth in the faithful’s desire to confess. Similarly, 66% of Catholics reported little to no participation in both spiritual and corporeal works of mercy. More than half of respondents said they would like to see growth in both of these areas.

Evangelization

While the vast majority (82%) said that religion should not be kept private, fewer (63%) said they would feel comfortable sharing their faith with others. On top of this 47% of respondents said they lack “faith-sharing” skills, but expressed a desire to grow in this area. They also recognize that evangelization requires more than just setting a good example, as 59% said they feel it is necessary to proclaim one’s faith with words.

With regard to barriers to evangelization, lack of experience, lack of confidence, and not knowing how to start a conversation on faith were among the top listed. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they fear that broaching the topic of religion may offend those they talk to. Furthermore, 62% said they feel that situations are not always appropriate to talk about faith.

Overall, there is a strong demand from the faithful for education on methods of evangelization. Seventy-six percent of respondents said they were moderately or extremely interested in learning how to share their faiths. For this, the faithful said they will need formation tools.

Technology

The faithful are open to a variety of evangelization formation resources, from in-person parish training seminars to virtual apps they can explore at their own pace. More than half of respondents said they would utilize resources such as these, while only slightly fewer (48%) said they would be fine learning online.

A solid 90% of Catholics say they have smart phones and, of these, 7 in 10 say they use faith-based apps at least three times per week. While the study found that Catholics do not seem to be extremely invested in technology, the majority said they felt the Church could put it to better use.

Respondents suggested that a Catholic app that would help discover opportunities to participate in the faith would be the most desired. The majority expressed the need for an app to inform on upcoming Catholic events in their immediate area and give a comprehensive guide of local Mass and service times. They said this technology could also connect the faithful with volunteer opportunities, as well as help them discover prayer groups, ministries, and faith communities.

Spiritual direction

Technology, respondents said, could also be put to work in aid of spiritual direction, another area which Catholics felt could be improved. The study found that only 1 in 5 Catholics is currently engaged in spiritual direction, although around half of Catholics have received spiritual direction at some time in their lives. Forty-eight percent of respondents said they have never sought direction, and even fewer (41%) even know that this might be a service offered by parishes.

Responses on the topic of spiritual direction suggest that the majority of Catholics have little experience with the notion of seeking guidance. The most cited reason for not seeking spiritual direction was that the faithful do not know how to find someone to guide them. Meanwhile 33% said they didn’t understand what spiritual direction even is.

The study did, however, find that confusion about spiritual direction could be solved by simply providing a resource to find spiritual directors. The data suggests that an app, or similar online service, could be the perfect solution, as more than half of those who have never sought spiritual direction responded that they would appreciate online spiritual direction.

See the full report at DeSales Media.

Tags:
CatholicismCommunityFaithUnited States
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