Men and women in their late teens, twenties, and thirties are among the least active voters in the United States, but they can also be among the most passionate and energetic Americans on a variety of issues. Furthermore, over the last several years, these young adults have been increasingly involved in volunteer work and community organizing movements across the country.
In Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility, the bishops of the United States remind us: "In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation" (no. 13). The decisions we make as citizens about who leads us and what policies are enacted have important moral and ethical dimensions.The values of our faith should be our guide to public life.
When developing activities and educational programs, those who work with young adults should be aware of trends such as declining church attendance and involvement in parish life and a widening gap between Church teaching and beliefs or perceptions of young adults.
Programs for young adults should include both a rich catechetical component and a strong evangelization component. This is to ensure that young adults are not just formed in their faith, but also engaged and excited about these issues and about the Catholic tradition which teaches them.
Below are some suggestions that may prove helpful in these regards.
Programs can be implemented on either the parish or diocesan level, and can be as simple or elaborate as the leader chooses. They can be incorporated over several weeks and months, or they can be the focus of a single event or gathering, depending upon how much time is available.
Many of these suggestions can be used specifically for men and women in their late teens, twenties, and thirties, or they can be done in an intergenerational context with people of all ages. However, given the interest of many young adults in social networking, keeping these activities focused on young adults or certain demographics of young adults may be ideal.
When developing content and schedules for the familiar Theology-on-Tap program (or any other similar speaker-and-social series for young adults), consider adding a Faithful Citizenship component. Local Catholic civic leaders and public officials are excellent choices for speakers, as are community organizers, policy experts, and local activists. These speakers might talk to young adults about how their faith influences their work in government or the political sphere. It is extremely important to ensure that all programs and events are nonpartisan. Before inviting any political officials or candidates to speak at your event, make sure such events are consistent with diocesan policy. It is also important that all candidates be invited to any event. Do's and Don';ts: Political Responsibility Guidelines to Keep in Mind during Election Season offers guidelines.
For discussion-oriented Theology-on-Tap sessions, leaders may consider using the various themes in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship as the presentation topics or in a regular series of programs. The Coffee Discussion Guide and General Discussion Questions can be used to help spark discussion in small groups after a presentation.
Young Adult Prayer Vigils
Using the themes from Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, leaders can organize a series of prayer vigils over a period of weeks, months, or other regular intervals. There can be prayer vigils for an end to abortion, poverty, war, or the death penalty, for immigrants or victims of terrorism, for policies that respect the environment, human rights, or the family, and for the resolution of many other issues addressed by the bishops in the statement. These prayer vigils can be done during the daytime or by candlelight in the evening, at local churches or outside of businesses, government facilities, hospitals, or any place fitting the occasion. Vigils outside of church property should be in accordance with diocesan policy and all the legal permits and permissions required by the local municipality should also be attained.
Voter Registration Drive
Active young adults at a parish or diocese can lead and run a voter registration drive at mass or in other civic settings. Young adult presence at the registration table is a witness to peers and other adults that voting is important to young people. As part of the registration drive or after Mass or other Catholic events, young adults can also hand out copies of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. More information about voter registration and education can be found in Do's and Don'ts: Political Responsibility Guidelines to Keep in Mind during Election Season.
Young Adult Small Groups
Host small-faith-sharing groups on Faithful Citizenship using the Adult Education and Small Faith Community Sharing session plans. Small groups can be organized among collegians, singles, engaged or married couples, families, or among Catholics with shared lifestyles such as commuters, stay-at-home parents, graduate students, and so forth.