The Summer, 2013 CARA report shows a disturbing trend: baptisms are declining. Not surprising, actually, given the culture and the continuing decline in marriage. Do today's young people, who are less likely to believe in sin and Hell, take seriously the need for baptism? Obviously not.
Certainly, as a church we need much better marketing and press to get our message out there - that the sacraments have an important role in the lives of real people - and that baptism is the gateway to salvation in Jesus Christ. More importantly, this situation points to weaknesses in sacramental catechesis and in catechesis of the young people and adults who are already in our parishes and programs.
And then there are the children and youth. Take a look in the average religious education text series. Baptism is taught early on, in the primary grades, as a precursor to First Communion. After that, it gets a chapter here and there, or is included in a chapter on the seven sacraments. Good, certainly, but, are our catechists up to this? How prepared are they to help kids understand that baptism helps make us who we are as Christians? Can they talk about this sacrament as the foundation of the Church? As the gateway to the Eucharist? As the very reason we celebrate Confirmation?
In the face of this, it is important to bring sacraments - and baptism in particular - back into the Catholic conversation and as a key component in any evangelization initiative. We need to stop taking for granted that people understand the relationship between baptism and Eucharist, between baptism and Christian life. We need to stop assuming that they pass this on to their children. Obviously they are not doing a very good job at that.