By Julia Walsh, FSPA
I hear the longing for things to be as they once were.
I hear it when I sit with elders in a circle during an event at the spirituality center where I minister, when they express concern about the lack of young adults, youth and children in their churches. I hear it when I talk to catechists at area parishes and they share their hope that young adults who've left the church after confirmation will return once they miss the sacraments and want their children to learn the faith. I hear it when I listen to some elder sisters in my community, when they express sadness that there aren't large groups of young women applying to join our congregation every year.
I get it. It's normal to hold out hope that things will go back to what we once knew, what made sense to us. I understand.
Yet, I also struggle with the notion, with the longing for things to be as they once were.
I aim to lovingly listen when elders express disappointment about the era we're in now. But I don't tell them that I hear their grief, because I don't want to suggest that what they're expressing is actually grief, because I'm not sure it's my job to help them see that things may be dead. They aren't saying that anything is over. Rather, they are calling this time a pause. I hear a sentiment that the church (and forms of religious life) that they once knew are in a long winter, at rest. Scenes of life and familiar landscapes will sprout soon, they seem to say. If only they hold on to hope, then what they once knew will come back, with greater flourishing.