Why I stay: Young adults reflect on their commitment to the church


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

Church attendance in the United States has fallen drastically in the past few decades, especially among young adults, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The sacraments of marriage and baptism used to pull young lapsed Catholics back into active participation, but that doesn’t happen as much anymore, according to Don Boucher, director of the diocesan Office of Faith Formation.

However, those who do choose to make the church a priority are enthusiastic about living and sharing the faith for a variety of reasons. The Catholic Messenger asked young adults in the Diocese of Davenport to share their thoughts on why they’ve made the Catholic Church a priority in their lives.

Ryan and Kristyn Hildebrand pose for a picture with their daughter, Raylynn, and Father Guillermo Trevino after Raylynn’s baptism at St. Alphonsus Catholic Churchin Davenport in December. Their son, Noah, is not pictured.

Fellowship fosters faith


Kathy Lee-Son, 36, St. Patrick Parish–Iowa City

Being Catholic is now a conscious decision that my husband, Dave, and I make every morning, but it was not always like this. Before we moved from Canada to Iowa City three years ago, we had a routine of going to Sunday Mass and serving in various church ministries. However, we did not truthfully know what it meant to “thirst for him.” We were only “lukewarm.”

Since joining the Iowa City Young Adult Catholic group, we have grown deeper in our faith. We started reading spiritual books, developed a desire to pray daily and discovered that confessions were becoming easier. We have made some amazing friends who inspire and encourage us. The thirst has become more real.

Through our weaknesses, sufferings and joys, we have allowed God to enter our marriage in a way we never thought possible. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Church is home

Vickie Underwood, 24, St. Alphonsus Parish-Davenport

I’ve stayed Catholic because, quite simply, the church is my home. I was raised in a religious household, my father and mother both working very hard to ensure that my brothers and I went to Catholic grade and high schools. They raised us in a peaceful, faith-filled home, teaching us about our connection with God and how to serve others. I loved talking with my dad; he has a way of working the topic of religion into any conversation!

Our church was the center of most of our family activities. I always felt happy and at home when I was participating, whether I was reading at Mass or busing tables at the fish fry. I was an altar server all the way through college because I loved serving. Even my career path is entwined with the diocese; I am a cook at the St. Vincent Center. Being Catholic is an integral part of my identity; I don’t leave because I know if I ever did, I would lose a significant part of myself.

Church built on solid foundation

Bob Heisdorffer, 35, Holy Trinity Parish–Keota

I was raised Catholic and have never considered leaving the faith. As a young adult, I appreciate that the church, however wounded and imperfect, teaches and fortifies the faith given by Jesus Christ to the apostles. An unbroken line of apostolic succession has passed this faith to each generation without adding or subtracting anything from it. Many young adults feel that the faith of their ancestors is not relevant to them. I feel that the church is as relevant today as it has ever been because it stands as a light of truth against modern-day relativism and provides a foundation and hope to those who are wearied in an age when nearly everything is temporary and disposable. Through the Catholic Church, Jesus Christ becomes physically present to us in the Eucharist.

Mass is comforting

Kristin Brauer, age 28, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish–Lost Nation

The most important thing to me is attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist. I love learning about how our liturgy “works” and why we do what we do. I’m so grateful to be able to worship in a church that has such rich and sacred traditions.

I also love how the Catholic Church is universal, and so it’s a place for me to belong wherever I am. During my first few years of teaching I was living on my own and would get kind of lonely sometimes, but I loved attending Mass on Sundays and knowing that I could participate in the same Mass wherever I was.

Since moving back to this area, I’ve become more active as far as being a parishioner. Our parish has experienced a lot of transitioning; there has been a need for all parishioners to really step up and get active … and since we’re such a small parish, everyone has an important role! Because it’s the church I grew up in, it was kind of a cool experience to go from being just my parents’ daughter (my mother, Bev, is Director of Religious Education at our parish) to a member in my own right. It can be nerve-racking serving on committees and doing projects with my elders who have been leaders in our church for many years, but it’s also an honor when they listen to my ideas and trust my judgment!

Also, our church has a strong sense of community that I love being a part of. I know that my fellow parishioners are there to support me through prayer, kind words and generous actions whenever I need it. You really feel Christ’s love from them!

Faith gives strength

Nestor Alvarez, 27, St. Mary Parish-Davenport

My wife, Victoria, and I decided to maintain our faith as adults because when things seem difficult, faith is what guides us through it. We like to show our faith in different ways, such as helping out with our church and the community. By doing so we are sending a message that says “with faith and hope all is possible.” So, by keeping our faith we are also keeping a close relation with our Lord.

Passing on the faith

Kristyn Hildebrand, 30, St. Alphonsus Parish-Davenport

I was brought up Catholic, attending Catholic school until fifth grade, CCD and weekly Mass with my family. It was important to me to maintain my religion because I knew I wanted to have my children raised with the same values.

Maintaining my faith allows me to receive forgiveness from God. It is important for me to receive this forgiveness so I am able to live a full, happy life for myself and my family. My faith guides me to live, love and serve.

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