Fr. Ricky Manalo
Fr. Ricky Manalo
A Paulist priest who once served in Portland says that to reach the “nones,” those who have no religious affiliation, it’s necessary to start with a cause and use that as a path to community and then to Jesus Christ.

“If you talk about Christ right away, they are going to smell you a mile away” and likely flee, said Father Ricky Manalo, a Santa Clara University sociology professor who also composes music published by Portland-based Oregon Catholic Press. He gave a talk Nov. 5 at the offices of OCP, publisher of the Sentinel.

To minister in a world that is not reliably religious, the church needs to offer tools for what the “nones” want: noble causes, interaction, genuineness, Father Manalo said.

A vibrant social media presence is a good start. And the digital media needs to include ways for young people to comment and interact, explained Father Manalo.

He urged parishes to keep traditions strong yet realize that the “nones” are relational and will find their way to faith via human networks, digital or otherwise.

But the “nones” are more active in liturgy that we think, Father Manalo said. They may attend Masses to see what they find authentic. At the same time, they are hesitant to adhere to any single institution. They also move a lot.

“We can criticize, and say we don’t like it, but this is just what they do,” Father Manalo said.

Father Manalo said some sectors of the church after the Second Vatican Council became too humanistic, weakening the ultimate evangelical message to the “nones” and everyone else. “We need to know there is something greater than we are,” he told OCP workers.