In America Magazine, Paul G. Crowley notes some of the characteristics of students of theology in Catholic settings:
Given the abundance of recent data about the waning of the Christian faith among the young, it might seem foolhardy to suggest that Catholic theology may be on the verge of resurgence. Certainly, many observers warn of theological malaise; some theologians are called to task by ecclesiastical authorities; and the mid-20th-century generation of “great theologians” has passed. Yet theologians can discern the future reflected in today’s students, including those of the North American Jesuit universities, some of whom aspire to become theologians themselves.
Over the years I have met a wide variety of students and reflected on the theological education offered them. Without the baggage of ecclesiastical battles and culture wars, students come with whatever they have received from parents and teachers. Increasingly, students reflect not only the cultural and ethnic diversity of society but also some of the wider culture’s positive values, like a strong yearning for a just social order.
Some students claim multiple religious identities and express faith in new ways; they eschew dogmatism and show openness toward people unlike themselves. They are accustomed to immersion in other worlds. Many, even students raised in nonreligious environments, exhibit an ethic of service. Some students pursue a theological vocation not in order to become professional theologians but as part of their search for a theological horizon to inform their lives. A handful will pursue graduate work in theology or ministry, including Protestants who seek a systematic framework for theological reflection. Such students are forcing the current custodians of the flame to imagine with them the future shape of Catholic theology. Who are these students?
Crowley maintains that today's students are idealistic-yet-realistic, pioneering, culturally aware, spiritual-but-not-religious, no-nonsense theologians.
May it be so.