Faithless Generation?

In Search of Other Gen-X Catholics

For several years now, I’ve suspected that my entire generation had vanished from Catholicism. On retreats, I was surrounded by seniors, Baby Boomers, and college students. At Mass I was joined by gray-haired people and (fewer) college students. In the women’s group I helped found at my parish, at vigils to support American sisters, in the pages of Catholic magazines, on the internet: more seniors, more Boomers, a sprinkling of college students, and forty-two-year-old me. Apparently, I am the last Gen-X Catholic on earth.

When I began finding my way back to Catholicism, only my husband and a couple of trusted peers were aware that I was spending my Sunday mornings at Mass, my Wednesday evenings in catechism classes, my Saturday mornings cooking at a shelter for homeless women. When I vanished for a week on a silent retreat, most friends my age assumed I was at one of Northern California’s many Buddhist centers or maybe a spa. When I was no longer available for Sunday brunch, friends guessed that my gym schedule had shifted. And then I outed myself with a book about Catholicism and how I do and don’t fit into it. I was pleased when friends in their thirties and forties turned up to hear me read from it. But not a single one was a practicing Catholic.

Last year, the PEW Forum on Religion and Public Life released the results of its multiyear study of faith, which revealed...

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About the Author

Kaya Oakes is the author of four books, including The Nones Are Alright (Orbis Books, 2015). She teaches writing at the University of California, Berkeley.