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Where Did I Go Wrong?

By Cathie Mcdaniel

Where Did I Go Wrong?

How to Cope With Adult Children Leaving the Church


DEAR CATHIE: My adult child informed my husband and me that she no longer wanted to be Catholic. She said she was exploring other faith options and even considered that she may be agnostic. Where did I go wrong? What is the lesson I am supposed to learn from this?

Please know that you are not alone and that many of us have experienced having a loved one walk away from the Catholic faith. There are many reasons why an individual would stray from the faith or reject it outright. Most often, the situation is very personal and private. As a parent of an adult child who has rejected their Catholic upbringing, we may feel shame, embarrassment, and grief for the loss of joy your child may never know without Jesus in their lives.

Our role as parents will never change as the primary spiritual educators. When a crisis like this occurs, our best weapon is prayer. As parents, we can model our faith life and amend our relationship with Christ. Talk to your priest or deacon. Try to accept the person where they are in the here and now and love them. Encourage their faith journey, let them know you are praying for their return to the Catholic faith, and know that God has the perfect plan for your child.

One of the most difficult aspects of this dilemma is having to face friends and family with the admission that your adult child has left the Church. Embarrassment can be overwhelming, and we can worry about what others are thinking or saying about us. One thing to consider is that you do not have to explain the situation to anyone. You can ask for prayer, but you don’t owe anyone an explanation. The situation can be very personal and private. We all need to be more understanding of people’s hurt. Sometimes it is difficult to know how deep a person’s sadness is by just looking at them. There is no cast for grief and embarrassment, as there would be for a broken limb. Lastly, you can always talk to a Catholic counselor to process your feelings and deal with your personal hurt.

Cathie Mcdaniel is the director of Catholic Family Services in Huntsville. She has a master’s degree in clinical counseling f rom Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and is a licensed professional counselor in the State of Alabama. If you would like to ask Cathie a question, please send to