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National Decline of Church Attendance: Some SAU Students Say They Aren’t Going Either

Saint Ambrose University prides itself in being rooted in the Catholic intellectual tradition and treasures its strong Catholic identity in relationship with the Diocese of Davenport. However, its Catholic identity may see a decrease in the number of students attending religious events as the number of church-goers makes a steady decrease nationally. 

As different generations begin to age and make choices, fewer and fewer individuals are attending services. According to the Pew Research Center, most adults between the ages of 18-29 attend church once a month or even less, with 25% of 18-29-year-olds going only once a month or even less. What may be causing this decline? The Buzz asked St. Ambrose students their views on declining church attendance. 

“I think early on in life, how religious you are is very much based on the people around you because when you’re 10, you can’t exactly drive yourself to church or even understand some of the words in the Bible. There has to be some type of influence by people, such as parents,” says junior Miranda Richards, a SAU Peer Campus Minister who is a practicing Catholic. In agreement with Miranda, many SAU students explained that their beliefs depended on how their parents introduced them to religion. 

“We would go to church a lot when I was younger. Now, we will go there on occasion, like on holidays,” says Isabelle Schad, a sophomore at St. Ambrose who follows Christian beliefs. Isabelle says she has been a Christian since she was a kid. However, the older she got, the harder it was for her and her family to make it to church weekly. 

“It’s hard to get there, and I don’t think many of us are interested in going every Sunday very early in the morning.” Although Isabelle says she still believes in God, her parents have influenced her to attend church only on holidays. 

Some may argue that parents should make their children attend church to keep the traditions and God in their lives. However, SAU students say that may make the declining attendance worse. 

“I don’t go to church as much now because the last time I went, my mom forced me to go, and it kind of ruined it for me,” says Madison Schreiner, a Christian sophomore at SAU. Madison says she still believes in God, but she has not attended a service since she was five years old. Madison says, “Being forced to go to church does not help build faith at all, if anything it made me think twice about going again.”  

On the other hand, parents not enforcing their children to go to church may result in the same outcome. Both Jolene Medugno, a senior at SAU, and Drake Helmig, a junior at SAU, say they do not identify with any religion and have a similar experience with attending church.

“I never really thought to go to church. It was always presented to me as an option by my parents. I always thought it should be a more personal connection between me and God, not something I had to go to church for to prove that connection exists,” explains Jolene. 

Drake Helmig sees religion in a very similar way. “I believe in a God, I just never had someone make church a mandatory thing I have to do.” 

Both students say they see religion as something that is up to them as a result of their parental influence. It isn’t mandatory for them to even believe, but they both do. However, neither makes a point to attend church as much as possible. 

SAU students say parental influence is significant in their religious decisions, which may cause a decline in church attendance. These trends seem to continue as generations go on because, as Madison explains, “I want my future children to go to church, but if they don’t want to, they don’t have to.”

Mallary Helmig is a staff writer for The Buzz.