Are you surprised that most of our children come from homes where there are single, divorced or widowed parents?

I recently read that the median age of those leaving the faith, which recently was age 35, has sadly reached the age of 13. I often wonder what the circumstances are for these children and why they “leave.”

As a child of 13, I might have been labeled as one who left her faith, not so much of my own volition but due to circumstances beyond my control. My father died when I was 12 and my mother remarried when I was 13. This resulted in my brothers and me relocating to a different state where we were uprooted from the stability of a community that nourished our emotional and spiritual faith formation.

We first moved to a small rural area where we were outsiders and were left with little guidance; needless to say, our faith formation stagnated. I never considered myself to have turned away from God as I prayed often to Him to let me go back “home.” I wanted to be accepted but felt judged harshly in this new community. I was lonely with all these changes that I had no control over. My brothers and I were moved again to a slightly larger town where God placed people in our lives who shared their Christian and Apostolic faith — their creed, “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.”

Through God’s providence, I became more than a statistic. There was more to the story of why I “appeared” to have left the faith. Similarly, although it seems that our children and families are leaving the faith, in reality there are more factors involved; there are many outside forces competing with faith formation. It is certain that God is still working in the background — through you if you let Him. We can use this as an opportunity to share our faith – in our thoughts, words and actions.

We each have an innate desire to belong. God desires us to experience community and belong to one another. The pandemic has upended this connection. The loss of community and the resulting isolation have created a larger chasm in our lives. This is most notable for our youth, our elders, those who live alone and even those who live in large households but who are isolated by social media and technology. We have each experienced a great loss in the past two years.

We can turn this loss into an opportunity by living our faith, by living our creed.

Let’s begin by supporting one another, stepping out of that “comfort zone” and sharing our faith. Take the time each day to engage with another person and listen. Make eye contact and ask them questions to show your interest. Pray with them or ask them how you might pray for them.  Invest your time.

I keep those people who influenced me during those tumultuous teen years in my prayers. I never took the opportunity to let them know how their faith story changed my life. I am grateful for the people God continues to place in my life as He is not done with me. God is not done with you either. Join me in this journey together and live our creed.

How would your faith story change the life of one of God’s children who has “turned away?”

Lord, you have probed me, you know me:

You know when I sit and stand;

You understand my thoughts from afar.

You sift through my travels and my rest;

With all my ways you are familiar.

Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord,

You know all.

—Psalm 139: 1-4

—Terri McCormack is marriage and family life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington.

—Originally published in the Spring 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.