What the Bishops of Canada have learned about Gen Z during COVID

After many conversations with young people, the bishops have compiled the results of these meetings in a new pastoral letter.

In the fall of 2020, when everything was closed due to COVID, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) held various Zoom telephone meetings with a total of 200 young Canadians aged 12 to 25. The meetings were meant to be a time for dialogue, reflection and information-gathering.

The bishops then took what they had learned from these meetings and turned it into a pastoral letter to young peopleposting it last week to coincide with the feast day of Blessed Carlo Acutis, an Italian who died of leukemia in 2006 aged 15. The letter highlights what the bishops heard in these conversations with young people across Canada.

“As the Bishops of Canada, we wish to walk with young people, not only to better understand the world through their experience, but also to encourage and support them as they grow in their own faith,” says the letter.

Here are some of the key things the bishops learned about today’s teens and young adults.

They often suffer from stress, anxiety and depression.

There are many pressures and challenges for young people today, ranging from peer pressure and family issues to concerns at school and work – all of which have a big impact on their mental health.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left them with many challenges.

COVID and all that comes with it has left young people uncertain about their lives and their future. They don’t know if they are well prepared for the future, if they will be able to get into universities and get the jobs they want, and they worry about the rising cost of living.

They welcome digital platforms and want the Church to continue to use digital spaces.

Young people the Bishops spoke to said they appreciate the live-streamed Masses, online prayer resources, and virtual events and groups that have sprung up during the pandemic and want them to continue. That said …

Their use of social media can be debilitating.

Young people told the Bishops that social media can become “all-consuming, meaningless and even hurtful, leading to feelings of isolation, loneliness and lowered self-esteem.” This can leave them feeling extremely socially isolated.

They worry about climate change and the health of the planet.

Perhaps more than any other generation, Gen Z believe that creation is a gift from God and should be protected and cherished.

They want to grow in their faith.

Some young people feel forgotten, with one person telling bishops, “It seems that after confirmation the Church forgets us until the preparation for marriage.” They want to see opportunities to grow in faith, discern their vocation and ways to help others.

They want to be heard and valued.

Young people want to be able to ask questions and have their views and concerns taken seriously. They want to be respected and to feel that they have something of value to contribute to the Church and to the world

They appreciate the testimony.

The bishops shared their personal stories of faith with the young people they spoke to and say in their letter that they were touched:

“It shows us that you value witnesses as inspiration for your faith journey,” they said. Young people are no different from people of any age: they are touched by testimonies and authentic testimonies.

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The pastoral letter also highlights three great role models for young people – Blessed Carlo Acutis, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha and Blessed Mother, and ends with the bishops reminding young people of their great value.

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