May 31, 2013

Unusual efforts aid outreach to teens and young adults at Jennings County area parishes

Father Jonathan Meyer crawls beneath barbed wire during the Spartan Race in Laurel on April 27, 2012. The barbed wire challenge will be part of the “Tame the Terrain” race in North Vernon on June 22. The event is a fundraiser to benefit young adults and teenagers who are members of St. Mary Parish in North Vernon, and St. Ann and St. Joseph parishes in Jennings County. (Submitted photo)

Father Jonathan Meyer crawls beneath barbed wire during the Spartan Race in Laurel on April 27, 2012. The barbed wire challenge will be part of the “Tame the Terrain” race in North Vernon on June 22. The event is a fundraiser to benefit young adults and teenagers who are members of St. Mary Parish in North Vernon, and St. Ann and St. Joseph parishes in Jennings County. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

The fun started with a raffle of the pastor’s car.

In 2011, Father Jonathan Meyer donated his car for a raffle—a raffle designed to raise funds so 10 young adult Catholics in his three Jennings County parishes could attend World Youth Day that year in Madrid, Spain.

“We hosted a party with live bands and food for the culmination of our fundraiser to raffle off the car Father Meyer had donated to the cause,” recalls Kate Eder, volunteer director of young adult ministry for St. Mary Parish in North Vernon, and St. Ann and St. Joseph parishes in Jennings County.

“Not only did our efforts surpass our monetary goal by raising $33,000, but the number of parishioners that attended the event to support our young adult pilgrims was outstanding. Our parishioners have accepted our young adults with open arms, and continue to support our efforts to increase the effectiveness of our young adult programs.”

Now, Father Meyer and the young adult ministry team of the three parishes in Jennings County have developed another creative—and far more physically-challenging—fundraiser to help send 14 young adult Catholics to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro this summer.

The June 22 fundraiser is called “Tame the Terrain,” a 4-mile race through 20 obstacles that include climbing a rock wall, jumping over fire pits and crawling under barbed wire.

“We’re taking the go-big or go-home mentality,” says Father Meyer with a laugh before turning serious. “Nothing is too big for our young people. Our young people are very important, and their faith and their ability to experience the larger Church is important.”

The fundraiser will also benefit teenagers from the parishes who want to attend the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis in November.

“When you finish one of these races, it’s just an experience of great joy, accomplishment and community,” Father Meyer notes. “God gives us our bodies, and we should be using them. That’s a part of our Catholic faith.”

While some people may consider that the raffle and the race tend toward the extreme, the goal of both events is basic, according to Eder.

“We recognize that the young adult years can often be the most challenging for individuals when it comes to maintaining and strengthening their faith and their personal relationship to God,” she says. “We are aware that young adults still long for a close relationship to God and yearn for a sense of belonging, but may have difficulty finding their place once they have graduated high school or are out on their own.

“We want young adults to feel a personal connection and investment in our parishes—and have the support and resources to deal with personal, educational and occupational struggles often characterized by this period.”

The three Jennings County parishes have hosted social events for young adult Catholics, including game nights, cookouts and versions of Theology on Tap evenings for college students who have returned home for the summer.

The connection is equally important for the three parishes, Eder says. Young adult parishioners have become involved in youth ministry programs, serving as leaders of retreats, Bible study and religious education programs.

“We recognize that for our parishes to remain strong Catholic communities and grow in their Catholic mission, we must have a strong representation of young adults among our active parishioners.”
 

(For more information about the “Tame the Terrain” race, log on to www.TameTheTerrain.com. Use the discount code T3CRIT for $15 off your registration.)

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