July 2, 2010

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Evangelization is at heart of pastoral letter to young people

The last three weeks, I have begun to set the stage for the publication of a Pastoral Letter on Young Adult and College Ministry.

As I mentioned in an earlier column, I am writing this pastoral letter as a way of supporting and highlighting ministry to young adults and college students. The important priority of ministry to our young adult Church in the evangelizing mission of our archdiocese surfaced in our most recent strategic planning cycle.

The pastoral letter takes as its theme and context “teaching the art of Christian living in our modern culture.”

The letter is structured according to the importance of teaching the art of Christian living in the family, in the parish, in colleges and universities, and peer to peer. It concludes with an invitation to all the Christian faithful.

The pastoral was completed for publication on the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on May 31, 2010. It will be published serially in my weekly column. At the end of the series, it will be presented in a separate publication.

On this feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is my joy to share with you the vision for Young Adult and College Campus Ministry (YACCM) for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

In writing this pastoral letter, I am reminded of the model of Our Mother Mary, who “set out and traveled to the hill country in haste” to serve her cousin Elizabeth who was with child (Lk 1:39).

This was no ordinary “setting out.” In fact, it was an extraordinary endeavor as Mary herself was with child and thus carried Christ with her. She traveled on foot or on donkey over 60 miles—from Nazareth to Bethlehem. She was on a mission; a selfless, life-giving mission to bring Christ to another, to others!

Young adult and college ministry requires the same love for another. It requires that we “go out” and meet the young adult community where they are. It requires a selfless, life-giving mission to care for and cure young souls who have been formed by a world, a culture, which does not always have Christ at the center. This is truly mission territory in our modern world; this is evangelization.

Evangelization is the heart of the Church’s ministry with young adults; it is our mission.

Pope Paul VI, in his apostolic exhortation “On Evangelization in the Modern World” (“Evangelii Nuntiandi”), clearly outlines that “evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God.” Each person is called through evangelization to a life of holiness.

The Catholic bishops of the United States, in “Go and Make Disciples: A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States,” further develop Pope Paul’s message in light of our country’s culture. In this guiding document, they articulate three goals for evangelization in our modern world:

  1. “To bring about in all Catholics such an enthusiasm for their faith that, in loving their faith in Jesus, they freely share it with others.”
  2. “To invite all people in the United States, whatever their social or cultural background, to hear the message of salvation in Jesus Christ, so that they may come to join us in the fullness of the Catholic faith.”
  3. To foster Gospel values in our society, promoting the dignity of the human person, the importance of family, and the common good of our society so that our nation may continue to be transformed by the saving power of Christ.”

In the United States Catholic bishops’ pastoral plan for young adult formation, “Sons and Daughters of the Light,” we implement these core pillars of ­evangelization for young adults in America by articulating that the first goal of young adult ministry is “to foster the personal and communal growth and education of young adults toward a relationship with Jesus Christ leading to Christian maturity.”

“In the face of a growing indifference to God, the new evangelization must not be about a social or political structure, but the person of Jesus Christ,” proclaimed Pope Benedict XVI. “Human life cannot be realized by itself. Our life is an open question, an incomplete project, still to be brought to fruition and realized. Each man’s fundamental question is: How will this be realized—becoming man? How does one learn the art of living? Which is the path toward happiness? To evangelize means: to show this path—to teach the art of living” (Address to U.S. Catholic educators, April 17, 2008). †

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