Listed below are ten challenges facing the Church in the United States for the twenty-first century. Invite the students to vote on which challenge they feel is most pressing (not necessarily the most important). Once votes are tallied, divide the class into small groups of three to five students. Direct each group to come up with four possible ways the Church can respond to the challenge the class chose. Afterward, call on a member from each group to summarize the group’s responses.

Ten Challenges for the Church in the United States

  1. Ecumenism. How can the Church reach out to people of other faiths, including Islam?

  2. Gospel witness.  How can American Catholics remain true to the vision of Jesus in a pluralistic and increasingly secular society that accepts as “normal” behaviors and lifestyles contrary to the Gospel?

  3. Immigrants.How can the Church help immigrants, especially the fat growing number of Hispanic-Americans, adjust to American society and give them important roles in the Church herself?

  4. Leadership.  How can the bishops strengthen their credibility among the laity? How can they most effectively share the best of American’s societal and cultural values with the universal Church?

  5. Parish life. How can the Church reanimate the person in the pew through a better appreciation of the Eucharist?

  6. Religious education. How can the Church reach out to Catholics of all ages, especially to disaffected Catholics who have dropped out of the Church?

  7. Schools. What is the future of Catholic schools on all levels—elementary, secondary, collegiate? What is their specific Catholic identity and mission?

  8. Vocations. How can the Church call and train priests to provide vision for the laity who will assume even greater roles of leadership? How can the Church mobiles the laity to support those in religious life?

  9. Women. What role should women have in the Church?

  10. Self-identity. How can the Church in America be American yet Catholic? How does Catholicism in American remain faithful to the Roman Catholic Church as she continues her life and witness in the pluralistic American culture?

Invite the students to add other questions to each of the challenges. Also, ask them to identify other challenges facing the Church in America today.