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Are we losing our enthusiasm?

Editor’s Note: This series will connect topics between Christianity and hunting. The series will run throughout the archery and rifle deer seasons.

It can be challenging when an older generation’s love is not enthusiastically embraced by a younger generation.

Hunting, Catholicism, mainline Protestant denominations, and other organizations are modern day examples of where younger generations are not embracing an older generation’s love.

According to the PA Game Commission’s website there were about 60,000 fewer resident adult hunting licenses sold in 2020 than in 2010.

This decline in enthusiasm is not just in hunting. According to pacatholic.org in 2019 there were 3,035,626 Catholics and in 2020 there were 2,937,513. This was a decrease of 98,113 Catholics in Pennsylvania between 2019 and 2020.

According to pewresearch.org, there is a gradual decline per generation that identifies as Christian. Data for the baby boomers (1946-64) displays that 76% identify as Christian while only 49% of millennials (1981-96) identify as Christian. Another significant statistic according to pewresearch.org is that the religious ‘nones’, or those who are unaffiliated, have grown by roughly 30 million in the last decade. According to the Meitler report, a study done by the Diocese of Erie, in the Bradford deanery which consists of Warren, McKean, and Potter counties 65.6% of residents are religiously unaffiliated.

Other organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Little League, and many other groups have also seen decreasing membership numbers. It is estimated that in the 1990s, during the peak of Little League, there were roughly three million little leaguers. According to littleleague.org, there are approximately two million participants currently worldwide. As reported by pbs.org, the Boy Scouts of America experienced its peak in the 1970s with over 6 million participants and since the 1990s memberships have continually decreased to roughly 1 million currently.

What is the proper response from older generations that see a decrease in enthusiasm concerning what they love among younger generations?

I think the answer can be found in St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine.

St. Monica’s parents gave her in marriage to a Roman pagan in the 300s. They had three children.

One of her children, Augustine, was raised Catholic but as he grew older he fell away. Monica’s husband died when Augustine was 17. At this time Augustine was in Carthage studying as he had an exceptional mind. An unfortunate story occurred years later when he was back home and told his mother he was going to say goodbye to a friend but he actually set sail for Rome to teach.

Monica, heart-broken, went to Rome after her son only to find that he had already gone to Milan. She then went to Milan. During this time of Augustine’s life, he was promiscuous and chasing after the pleasures and honors of the world.

During all these years Monica loved her son, prayed for him, and authentically lived out her faith.

In Milan, Augustine had a conversion and returned to the Catholic faith. Shortly after, Monica died. In Augustine’s autobiography, The Confessions, he wrote about one of the final conversations he had with his saintly mother before she died. Monica said, “Son…there was indeed one thing…and that was that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I died. My God has exceeded this abundantly.”

Augustine went on to become a Catholic priest and then a bishop.

The only proper and adequate response from older generations to younger generations, whether it be hunting, an organization such as Little League, or with the faith is that of St. Monica. Her example reminds us to live an authentic life, never lose hope, never be afraid to send an invitation, and to continue to pray.

Luke Daghir is a seminarian for the Diocese of Erie. He is with St. Joseph and St. Luke Parishes in Warren County for his parish mission. He learned how to hunt from his dad in the forests of Elk County, Pa. His favorite part about hunting is spending time with family and friends. He also enjoys hearing and sharing stories with other hunters. His column appears every other week.

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