June 19, 2015

Catholic Education Outreach / Matt Faley

Small group ministry helps young adults grow together in their lives of faith

An instructor of mine liked to tell us stories about one of his professors, Father Boniface.

Father Boniface was an old man, wise beyond his years. He carried with him an edge of a man who had seen some things in this world, but an assurance that Jesus was real and that he knew him intimately. Our teacher would tell us often about how Father would openly, and sometimes randomly, reflect on the mystery of Jesus out loud in the classroom. He would sit back in his chair, take a drag of his cigarette—this was a long time ago—and say, “Ahhhh. The scandal of the hic!”

What Father Boniface was referring to was this scandal of the here and now, hic in Latin. He was reflecting on the mysterious truth that Jesus, in all his glory, came and comes to us still today to meet us directly where we are.

One day, a student of Father Boniface came up to him after class and asked, “Father, you talk about this scandal of the here and now. Let me ask you this. Why then did Jesus have to come on that one day? Why, of all the days he could have chosen, did he pick that day to be crucified?”

Father Boniface looked at him with a wry smile and said, “You tell me.”

The student left, perplexed and determined to satisfy his own searching heart. He came back a few days later and said, “Father, I got it.” He proceeded to give a long, theologically sound response.

Father Boniface looked at him and said, “Not yet.”

The student left, ever more determined. He came back the next week and said, “Father, I got it.” And again, a historically and theologically sound response followed, but Father Boniface was not yet satisfied, so he sent him on his way.

The next class, the student came in confident and serene and said, “Father, I get it.”

“Go on,” Fr. Boniface said.

“It was because of the Good Thief. He came on that very day because he came to die for the Good Thief.”

This is how much our Lord loves us. This truth that we remember is one that we know deep in our hearts. It is the voice crying out from within us that leads to us to seek. We carry within us a longing to be known, loved, seen and adored like we are the only one in the world.

Jesus affirmed this with the way he lived his life in public ministry. To many, Jesus was known as teacher, to others, Messiah, but to a small group of people he was friend. It was through this small group of people that he spread his love, mercy and friendship throughout the entire world, and we can share in that friendship even still.

The archdiocesan Office of Young Adult and College Campus Ministry (YACCM) has discovered that our community has a great desire to form small groups. For the past four years, YACCM has helped facilitate the growth of these groups around the city and archdiocese.

We have men’s groups, women’s groups, mixed gender groups, groups based on different topics, groups of different size, but they all reflect the same vision as the small groups started by our Lord and his early Apostles: to gather together in community, to reflect on the life of Jesus, and to be sent out to do the same in the world.

Small group ministry plays an essential role in the overall vision of our ministry to young adults. We have successful outreach programs in place designed to introduce people to the larger Church. And when they are ready, smaller communities—like the ones that exist through our office—invite young adults to journey even deeper into their stories alongside other young adults who are seeking the same thing.

We see this ministry as so essential, in fact, that we feel our Lord calling us to put more time and effort into growing it into a more vibrant aspect of our mission. Starting this fall, we will be rolling out more streamlined and dedicated opportunities for young adults to lead and join small groups.

They will be called Emmaus groups. Much like what we see in the story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus, we gather together on the journey to recognize the presence of Jesus in our lives and proclaim, “Were our hearts not burning within us?” (Lk 24:32). We will offer opportunities for people of all walks on the journey while at the same time providing guidance, leadership and a curriculum for those who feel called to lead a group.

We in YACCM are excited to meet Jesus in the here and now, and to grow together alongside young adults on the road to glory.

If you are interested, especially in becoming a leader, please let us know. You can connect with Katie Sahm at ksahm@archindy.org, and she will give you a timeline and what to expect in leading a group that wants to grow together in faith.

(Matt Faley is the archdiocese’s director of young adult and college campus ministry. E-mail him at mfaley@archindy.org.)

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