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Faith connection beats isolation

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Sydney Catholic and Antioch Youth member Nikita D’Souza (front right) with her mother Niliya, father Nelson and sister Nireeksha before a Divine Mercy image at the Shrine of Holy Innocents in Kellyville. PHOTO: Supplied

Young adults say faith is growing despite social distancing measures

Young Sydney Catholics are sharing how their faith is growing stronger as a new report shows the effects of coronavirus social distancing on young adults.

Using the social media hashtag #benotafraid they reveal that that they are finding enforced physical separation isolation from their friends and study, sporting, faith and work communities difficult.

But they are finding new ways to develop a spiritual life through increased prayer, creative pursuits, the practice of gratitude, participating in online services and devotions and other uses of social media.

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The initiative by Sydney Catholic Youth to engage people during the lock-down period echoes findings in the US study that while young adults are experiencing heightened levels of loneliness and isolation, their faith life is doing ok.

Jennifer Healey, a parish youth coordinator, with some spiritual reading she now has extra time for. PHOTO: Supplied

Among the 1000 respondents surveyed, 35 percent reported experiencing an increase of faith, while 46 percent had begun additional religious practices. However 50 percent of those who had watched an online church service also reported they had no one to talk to about how they are feeling, and 44 percent report felt isolated because no one had reached out to them.

A ‘lonely’ generation?

Those surveyed for the study by the Springtide Research Institute were aged between 18-25. It described the cohort as one of the “most lonely and isolated generations that have ever existed”.

Sydney Catholic Youth team leader Chris Lee said the #benotafraid challenge is an attempt to connect local young Catholics who may be struggling under the virus restrictions in a variety of ways. “These are really trying times and young people were already vulnerable to problems including underemployment and poor mental health before COVID-19,” he said.

“It’s more important than ever for us to connect and form friendships with each other and try to cultivate faith and hope together.”

Episcopal vicar for evangelisation and meme-making Bishop Richard Umbers said that as a Church “it is vital that we support those who feel isolated”.

“Physical-distancing does not equate with social-distancing nor with faith-distancing,” Bishop Umbers said. “It’s great to hear that many young people are reportedly engaging more with their faith during these times.

“The Church must continue to do more as the Body of Christ to work together to diminish the isolation felt by many and replace it with unshakable faith and hope in the constancy of a God Who is with us always: ‘I am with you always; yes, to the end of time’ (Matt. 28:20).”

“The Church must continue to do more…to diminish the isolation felt by many”

Nikita D’Souza of Antioch Youth said that social isolation is possibly her “worst enemy” but that she had been challenging herself to embrace it by taking daily walks outdoors, praying with family members, and using internet teleconferencing to catch up with friends from school and church circles.

“I have definitely missed having personal interactions with my friends,” she said. “The highlight for me has been praying ‘The Way of The Cross’ with my family. During this trial being able to meditate over Our Lord’s passion, has been incredibly fulfilling. It has given me a massive sign of hope.”

Julen Reyes of Our Lady of the Angels at Rouse Hill said that sticking to the social distancing rules “has not been easy”.  He took to social media to share how he was trying to make the most of the time at home with his parents and siblings.

He said he finds the extra hours of silence and time alone are an opportunity “to reflect, pray and appreciate the little blessings of each day”.

Related articles:

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Aussie Catholic students start global online rosary


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