Research by ND Sociologist Christian Smith Helps Shape Nationwide Catholic Initiative

Author: Michael O. Garvey

Christian Smith, the William R

“Strong Catholic Families, Strong Catholic Youth,” an initiative that brings Catholic parishes and schools together with Catholic families to strengthen and deepen their faith, is now active in some 60 dioceses in the United States and Canada.

According to those who conceived, organized and now direct this new and growing movement in youth ministry, social science research conducted by Christian Smith, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology and director of Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Religion and Society, has been instrumental in the development of the program.

Particularly crucial were the findings of the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR), a study directed by Smith of the lives and religious practices of American young people.

“The NSYR research certainly served a wake-up call to the Catholic Church, and one that came just in time to help fix a broken system in need of transformation and renewal,” says Robert McCarty, executive director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM). “It served to both motivate and guide our efforts in developing the initiative which has now been embraced by so many dioceses to help the church partner with parents to bring home the faith.”

“Parents have actually welcomed the challenges that Christian Smith and his colleagues have illuminated through the NSYR research,” adds Michael Theisen, NFCYM director of membership services. “Rather than feel overwhelmed and helpless, many parents have chosen to step up their efforts at passing on the faith now that they know both the great responsibility and great benefits that are brought about through these efforts.”

For his part, Smith is simply pleased that his academic work has been useful. “It makes me very proud,” he said. “I’m happy to have done scholarship that makes a real difference in people’s lives, and am glad too that Notre Dame social science research can be of service to the Church.”

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