Last March 16, 2023, I was struck with a short item in The New York Times. It indicated  in the paper’s Opinion Essay written by Jessica Grose, the author’s opinion that millennials today are already hitting middle age. The sub-text is that it is happening much sooner than other generations of the past.

Just to review: who are the millennials of the world today? They are those born between 1981 and 1996  (ages 27 to 42 in 2023). Previous to this group is Generation X and on the other hand, those born in 1997 onward are now referred to as Gen-Z. Ordinarily the onset of a middle life crisis hits only after 50 years old or even in the 60s. One common belief about this stage of life is that one should expect to face a crisis that brings inner turmoil about one’s identity, life choices and the question of mortality.

What are the causes of an earlier mid-life crisis among millennials, especially in First World countries such as the USA and Western Europe. Grose lists the following: the overlapping economic crises, growing fears about democracy, multiple wars and a pandemic that lasted two years. Thus, she claims that the generation’s once-mocked optimism has been deflated and a sense of precariousness has taken root instead.

Grose adds that despite the fact that the millennials do not have the same income level as the boomers (the one of their parents), there has been an increase in the usage of Lexapro. Lexapro is brand name of Escitalopram an antidepressant of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor class. Escitalopram is mainly used to treat major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. A disturbing fact, indeed, but then many psychiatrists and psychologists have complained that since the pandemic, the demand for their services have exponentially rose to higher levels.

How relevant is this piece of information to Third World countries like the Philippines? Being underdeveloped perhaps there might be differences as to how the millennials in the Third World are coping with the global and national changes occurring. But then, the economic woes and the impact of the pandemic are worst in the Third World, so one can conclude that our very own millennials may not be too different from those in the West. Besides, especially the millennials of our urban centers (and even in rurban areas where the internet technology has reached the youth), they too have been captive to the gadgets made available by high-technology manufactured mainly from the West (and of course China!).

What are the implications for institutions like the Church and cause-oriented groups (e.g. non-government organizations including those that are faith-based)? Specifically for the vocation recruitment program of dioceses and religious congregations? There are those who actually still recruit from senior high school to college level (who are mainly now the Gen-Z), but there are more efforts to recruit young professionals, who are mostly in the 27-42 age range, namely the millennials of today.  It is even said that where before of the boomer’s generation, at age 18 one was already considered an adult and presumed to be a matured person, today one is not even sure if some of the millennials are at this maturity level.

Nonetheless there are more efforts now attracting the attention of this age range in the hope that they can be recruited to join the formation program to become either a priest or religious.  There goes the rub. As hard as they will try, vocation promoters may have a more difficult time these days attracting the attention of the millennials if it is true that they are into their inner turmoil! Or they will have to find more creative ways to convince those – who might consider the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood or religious life – to at least attend a search-in and hopefully to pursue a formation program.

And once they have joined a formation program, there is great need as to how to assist them in dealing with their inner turmoil if this has remained an agenda for them.  Fortunately, formation programs today do incorporate processing through which the formands are provided psychological or other forms of assistance so they can deal with their troubled “inner child.”  The challenge, however, remains how these processing methods could be inculturated into our Philippine context.  And needless to say, the kind of formators required today are those adept at dealing with millennials with their issues, not intimidated with the peculiarities of this generation and have the required compassion to be true companions to a generation that are “wounded.”

This, too is a challenge for those who are in civil society organizations (formerly referred to as cause-oriented groups) especially non-government organizations and faith-based agencies.  Second-liners are so much in demand as those who are still holding on to positions of authority are the remnants of the boomers generation and also the martial law babies (the Gen Xers). CSOs are greatly demanded in countries with pretensions to democracy and yet have authoritarian elements in its governance system.  However, the continuity of these CSOs is dependent on how present generations can take over from their elders. With this phenomenon of millennials faced with a crisis, how many can we hope to recruit from them to take over the leadership roles in CSOs?

Or shall we pin our hopes on the upcoming Gen Z?  But as the world remains in a VUCA reality (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) Reality,   is there much hope for the future?  Are those in the Gen Z generation (age range from 6 t0 27) the upcoming youth  that might not fall into the same trap as the millennials and will face the future with greater optimism?  We can only hope so in the belief that in life there are ups and downs. And that possibly GenZ might emulate more the example of the boomers.

And for as Redemptorists: if we are to be messengers of HOPE in the footsteps of the Redeemer, we can only hope that even among the troubled millennials we can still attract a few of them who would join us as they opt for a life where they can be instruments of plentiful redemption!


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