NEW YORK — Recognizing the need to engage one of the largest demographic groups in the Catholic Church, Holy Name Province included evangelizing young adults as part of its mission in its 2008-2013 Strategic Plan. Many Province parishes have followed suit by providing social gatherings, small groups and service opportunities for 18- to 40-year-olds.
From the Northeast to the Carolinas, young adults are finding a variety of programs at Holy Name parishes.
St. Mary’s Parish in Pompton Lakes, N.J., is a part of Catholics in Action, a community of young adults in northern New Jersey made up of single and married Catholics in their 20s and 30s. The group, which began in July 2008, primarily focuses on Theology on Tap sessions — gatherings of up to 50 or 60 young people in a local bar featuring a speaker. In January, Francis Gunn, OFM, spoke at a Theology on Tap. The church’s pastor, Kevin Downey, OFM, has also participated in several events.
The Catholics in Action group also plans a monthly young adult happy hour and has hosted camping and canoe trips. Stephen Kaas, St. Mary’s member of the planning team for Catholics in Action, said the group will offer a retreat in November.
Kass said young adult ministry is a critical part of the ongoing faith formation process. “Ministering to young adults will not only strengthen the parish community,” he said, “but it is a means for the Church to stay involved during the years when people make some of the most important decisions in their lives such as discerning a vocation or choosing a spouse.”
The young adults at St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Md., refer to themselves as ASK, or Adults Seeking the Kingdom. The group has a close relationship with the church’s pastor, Michael Johnson, OFM, who serves as chaplain at ASK’s annual spiritual retreat and takes time to attend potluck dinners. John Giorgis, one the group’s leaders, said Michael acts as spiritual advisor, challenging the young people of the parish to make a deeper commitment to their faith.
The group of more than 100 early 20s to 40-year-olds has six or eight potluck dinners each year and small group faith-sharing communities during the Lent and Advent seasons. ASK held its second service trip to St. Anthony of Padua Church in Camden, N.J., over the weekend of Sept. 18, where participants painted, tiled, cleaned and made other basic repairs to the parish’s buildings. The young adult page on St. Camillus’ Web site shows a group photo from their first visit to Camden outside its Francis House ministry.
Giorgis said he felt it was important to provide services for young people because, “As Christians, we are called to do more. The young adult community provides a place where we can share our struggles and successes with our peers, as well as gain encouragement for the journey.”
St. Francis of Assisi Church in Raleigh, N.C., where Mark Reamer, OFM, is pastor, built its community of more than 150 young adults by organizing a variety of social, spiritual and service events according to Gladys Whitehouse, the parish’s coordinator of Family Life Ministry. Events have included Bible studies, bilingual Mass, ice-skating, sporting events, potlucks, Habitat for Humanity and Race for the Cure.
The group remains active, drawing anywhere from five to 20 participants at a given activity. On Sept. 30, the group is offering “Music & Message of U2,” just in time for the upcoming U2 concert in Raleigh. The evening will explore how the music of U2 relates to the Christian faith. The group will meet on Oct. 21 for its monthly social dinner at a café in downtown Raleigh, and on Nov. 5, young adults will attend the parish’s “Evening with God.”
Whitehouse said it is important for a parish to provide a young adult ministry because “it allows young people a way to come together to share with each other, grow in their faith, find fellowship and serve others.”
Though Immaculate Conception Church in Durham, N.C., has had a young adults group for several years, it was “rebooted” in October 2008 by parishioners Nicole Roberge and Martin Rock. Roberge said Rock organized a small core of volunteers who began serving coffee after a Sunday Mass.
“This really kick-started the group and allowed us to sign up more than 100 new members over a few months,” she said, “and the coffee table become the base of operations for our group.”
In mid-March 2009, the group began using MeetUp.com to post upcoming events such as monthly potlucks, planning meetings, Habitat for Humanity work days, museum visits and a Lenten reflection series. The group will also be hosting Theology on Tap this fall. Roberge said average participation ranges from 10 to 20 young adults, and Steven Patti, OFM, often attends.
Other ministries in the Province with specific outreach to young adults include St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, Sacred Heart Church in Tampa, Fla., St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church in Hartford, Conn., and Holy Name of Jesus Church in New York City.
— Rebecca Doel, Holy Name Province’s communications coordinator, welcomes information from Province ministries about programs for young adults. It will be included in upcoming issues of HNP Today.