Placing faith: community commitment among millennial Catholics
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This dissertation attempts to fill the gap in the sociological literature at the intersection of religion and community by examining how local, urban Catholic churches shape and nurture multiple models of community commitment based on differing public-private dimensions of ritual practice and moral calls to action. For this study, I conducted 41 interviews with young adults ages 22-36 actively involved in one of three organizationally distinct Roman Catholic churches in downtown Boston: a parish church, operated by the Archdiocese of Boston; a service church, operated by a religious order of evangelical missionaries; and a Eucharistic shrine, operated by a liturgical order of devout priests and brothers. My empirical findings show that young adult Catholics gravitate towards churches that align with their conceptions of how Catholicism should be practiced based largely on patterns of parental socialization. Young adults who grew up in dual-Catholic-parent households are more likely to attend St. Cecilia’s diocesan parish or St. Clement’s Eucharistic Shrine. Young adults from families with only one active Catholic parent were more likely to attend The Paulist Center. The collective identity of young adult Catholics emerges from patterns of Catholic identity which are activated in church settings and defined through meaningful role identities established by the organizational framing accomplished by local clergy leadership. Young adult commitment to local churches may be explained through the interaction between their socialization into Catholic faith and its expression in organizational practices that resonate cognitively and emotionally. Ritual memory is tapped through the interaction of collective identities and institutional offerings that guide decision-making around church choice and commitment. Each institutional setting and respective community adapts its own modes of interaction to communicate the resonant message via social practices that result in active religious belonging. In addition, as previous research has shown, participation in church activities and strong social connections within congregations contribute to greater voluntarism and commitment in the larger community. The example of local Catholic churches highlights the importance of multidimensional social networks that can align collective identities with bespoke calls to action amid the evolving needs and aspirations of multiple groups and constituencies.