By James Colgan (NCC News) SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Ash Wednesday sent parishioners flooding into Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel for the chance to “receive ashes,” a tradition in the Catholic church meant to celebrate human mortality. Hundreds, mostly students, flocked to the chapel for an abbreviated service aptly named “Ashes To Go”.
The large group of students gathered for the service served as an uncommon site—among millennials, religion has become increasingly less popular. Evidenced by a Gallup poll from late last year that found the overwhelming majority of the American public (74%) feels that religion is losing its status in American culture with the current generation.
41% of respondents to the Gallup poll said they had not attended a religious service in the past two weeks, the lowest response on-record for Gallup in over 75 years of polling. Additionally, 21% responded to the survey by saying they did not have a religious identity. That’s a 15% increase since just 2008.
While the growth (or lack thereof) of religion among millennials and members of generation Z is critically important to religious higher-ups, those like campus minister Jeremiah Deep see the issue based more in finding time for the church and less in a seeming issue with religiosity or spirituality among the youngest generations.
“As a whole, it’s challenging. [Syracuse is] a secular institution, also Syracuse obviously is a party school, right? There’s a whole bunch of sororities and fraternities that we have to compete with, so those obviously take up a lot of our students time,” said Deep.
But don’t expect campus ministries to sit on its hands about the issue. Deep said the University’s Catholic Ministry has been working closely with the Maxwell School to develop a survey to help gauge the climate of the campus on religious involvement. The aim of the survey, Deep says, is to grow the reach and relevance of the ministry on the Syracuse campus, and to help expand awareness about ministry services.