May 31, 2013

St. Bartholomew Parish ministry helps bring young people ‘out of the fog’

By John Shaughnessy

Theresa Racanelli always strives for that “light in the eyes” moment—the moment when she knows she has made a connection with a young adult seeking a spiritual home.

The moment usually comes when she introduces herself in the narthex at St. Bartholomew Church in Columbus.

“I usually say something like, ‘Hi! My name is Theresa. I’m the coordinator of young adult ministry here, and you look like a young adult,’ ” she notes. “That begins a conversation. After that initial greeting, I almost always see a light turn on in the eyes of that person. He or she has stepped out of the fog of isolation—the feeling that ‘no one knows me here’—and has started to enter into a community where he or she can belong.”

St. Bartholomew Parish is one of the 19 of the archdiocese’s 147 parishes that has established an active, young adult presence.

“St. Bartholomew realized that there was a ‘gap in the ministry net,’ and that many young adults, once they get out on their own, don’t see the relevance of maintaining a connection to their faith, and they thus leave and don’t always come back to the Church,” Racanelli says.

“Our young adult ministry program was formed to reach out to those in their 20s and 30s, to give them a place to deepen their understanding of their faith and to help them to connect with Christ, his Church and a group of their peers.”

The parish also relies on its members to invite, embrace and connect with young adult Catholics.

“We ask some of our more involved parishioners to be on the lookout for young adults in the pews and in the community,” Racanelli says. “Then we ask those ‘scouts’ to spread the word about our young adult ministry. Personally, when I see or hear about someone new, I make an effort to meet with that person face to face and share a meal with him or her just to welcome him or her to the community.”

Racanelli acknowledges that establishing those connections with young adults isn’t always easy, but it’s needed and worthwhile.

“Working with young adults who are often in a transient phase of life is challenging,” she says. “You can’t always expect to have huge numbers or consistent involvement, but numbers aren’t the focus. Souls are. And each soul is of inestimable value. So never get discouraged if you don’t have the crowds you’d like. If you are seeking and doing the will of the Father, things will grow—in his time.” †

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