WYD Pilgrims Reveal Future of US Catholicism

A recent article from National Catholic Reporter suggests that the delegations of young Catholics from the U.S. traveling to World Youth Day (WYD) in Krakow this year reflect the shifting demographics of U.S. Catholicism. Dioceses are reporting increasing numbers of Hispanic and Latino pilgrims this year, which should come as no surprise considering the data from the Pew Research Center last September showing that Hispanics and Latinos make up 49% of U.S. Catholics between the ages of 18-29, and 45% of those between ages 30-49.

The article notes that according to WYD USA National Coordinator, Paul Jarzembowski, pilgrims to WYD “tend to be represent a good cross-section of U.S. Catholics who are moderately to highly involved in church life at home.” This is good news as it means that, if Hispanics and Latinos are being strongly represented among the WYD pilgrims, they are therefore also very likely to be actively involved in parish life. This, to me, is especially important now as we are surely seeing a drop in youth participation in the Church, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center. “This has been a dream of St. John Paul II, and Popes Benedict and Francis after him:” Jarzembowski further stated, “that World Youth Day does not end at the closing Mass, but becomes a catalyst for building up missionary disciples and agents of mercy and faith in the everyday lives of young adults today.”

So, not only does this shift represent positive developments that are already taking place in some dioceses, but we can also have hope that there will be fruits that continue to unfold over time, as these young pilgrims return to their parish, diocesan and campus communities.