July 16, 2010

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Parishes must welcome and embrace young adults

This week, the Pastoral Letter on Young Adult and College Ministry continues with a reflection on the essential role of parishes in teaching the art of Christian living to young adults. I continue with a quotation from the Holy Father’s address to U.S. Catholic educators in April 2008.

“Educating new generations in the faith is a great and fundamentally important task that involves the entire Christian community,” one that has become “particularly difficult” today and, hence, is “even more important and urgent,” according to Pope Benedict XVI (“Address to U.S. Catholic educators,” April 17, 2008). The parish is a living family, which ensures this essential task of Catholic education.

It is helpful to quote again the U.S. Catholic bishops who, in their pastoral plan “Communities of Salt and Light,” define the parish as a place “where the Church lives. Parishes are communities of faith, of action and of hope. They are where the Gospel is proclaimed and celebrated, where believers are formed and sent to renew the Earth. Parishes are the home of the Christian community; they are the heart of our Church. Parishes are where God’s people meet Jesus in word and sacrament, and come in touch with the source of the Church’s life.”

This truth about our Church places an even greater emphasis on the important role of young adult and college ministry in our archdiocese.

In the community of faith, it is the parish family which takes a vital role in welcoming, engaging and evangelizing young believers and non-believers.

Parishes must then have an “open door policy” to welcome young adults of diversity, varied backgrounds and assorted levels of formation.

Our parishes must have a vigilant eye and offer a welcoming hand in the lives of young adults who pass through their doors, including those who have fallen away from the Church and those who have never passed over the threshold of a Catholic Church in their entire lives. We must embrace an attitude that is grounded in the truth that every soul counts!

Furthermore, our local parishes must engage young adults in ministries of all dimensions, and ensure the inclusion of young adult leaders in ministries and decision-making structures of the parish.

Most importantly, parishes should evaluate the state of their young adult outreach and evangelization. This can be done effectively by asking and listening; actively listening to the needs and desires of young adult hearts.

I, like many others, find that our young adults are gifted, service-oriented, giving sons and daughters of God, and they have so much to offer a parish family, the local community and the world. A lively and growing parish thrives with young adults who are willing to set roots, give their gifts, and become healthy and committed members of the parish. We need to intentionally give them that opportunity.

Just as it is fundamental that parishes embrace the gifts of young adults, it is equally important that young adults seek to set roots and become established in one parish family, learning from the gifts of those more mature in faith. Occasionally, the formation from a non-committal culture leads to a church hopping, non-committed young adult.

Our young people should be encouraged to be woven into the fabric of a local parish with all its joys, sorrows, challenges and successes. Here, young adults will grow more fully in relationship with Jesus Christ through his holy, Catholic Church.

We find our young adults in colleges and universities, and we find them in the work place and different professions. Parishes have a particularly important mission to the many young Church members who live in the workaday world.

It is also important to consider the role of our colleges and universities in teaching the art of Christian living. Their role is vital in our responsibility for ministry with and for young adults.

There are an estimated 110,000 students enrolled in colleges and universities within the Archdiocese of Indianapolis alone. Nearly 25 percent of these students are believed to be baptized Catholic. Many of our young adults are college students who are studying on 12 campuses throughout central and southern Indiana, including Butler University, DePauw University, Earlham College, Franklin College, Hanover College, Indiana State University, Indiana University, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Marian University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and the University of Indianapolis.

They are also our college men and women studying at technical schools, and on campuses across the country and close to home in neighboring dioceses, such as Purdue University, Ball State University, Wabash College and the University of Notre Dame.

According to Cardinal John Henry Newman, the university is a “seat of wisdom, a light of the world, an alma mater of the rising generation.”

College Catholic Centers serve as a tool on university campuses to bring knowledge and truth, through faith and reason, to all young people. †

Local site Links: