Last Spring, the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry collaborated with the Office of Faith Formation to host three Young Adult Listening Sessions across the diocese in Wheeling, Charleston, and Charles Town. Young Adults gathered for prayer, music, and conversation about the joys and struggles of life as young adult Catholics under the tag line “Your Church is Listening”. Some common themes that we found in each of these locations were that young adults want to feel more welcomed within their Church communities, they wanted to be part of consistent gathering of young adults in their area, and they wanted intentional opportunities to grow in their faith life. The goal of this new column on young adults is to provide resources for ministers and priests on how to reach out and grow the community of young adults within a parish community, then work to meet these needs that our young people expressed.
Young adults are not the future of the Church, they are part of our Church. Who are the young adults within your parish family? Young adults can be a wider and more diverse group of people than one may typically think. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a document on young adults in which they defined young adulthood as “people in their late teens, twenties, and thirties. Young adults can be single, married, divorced, or widowed; and with or without children. They are present in every trade and profession. They live in many communities that make up our society—from rural areas to small towns to large metropolitan areas. They come from diverse cultural, ethnic, educational, vocational, social, political, and spiritual realities.” (Sons and Daughters of the Light, USCCB) If we truly look at those in our parish communities that fall within these dynamics, we might be surprised at how many more young adults are in our parishes than we think.
Young Adults tend to be the generation within our parishes that are going through the most amount of transition. They are transitioning away from home, out of college, into married life, discovering what it means to be a mother or a father, learning the ropes of holding a full time job, trying to figure out if the Lord is calling them into the priesthood or religious life, discovering how to handle their own finances, etc. It is in these moments of transitions that we tend to loss parishioners within our parishes. So how do we minister to these young adults and help them to feel like they belong? The first thing is we need to get to know them. Let’s start even simpler than that by simply learning their name. Knowing someone’s name can make them feel more welcomed and cared for. Once we know their name, then we can get to know them. The second thing we need to do is listen to them. Young adult ministry can be challenging because of how diverse young adults are. A single young adult who is just starting to navigate the work industry is in a very different stage of life than someone who has been married for 10 years and has several children. By listening to them, we can find out how we can best minister to them and walk with them in their faith journey. Getting to know someone and listening to them is the first step we can take in making the young adults of our parishes feel more welcomed. Once a relationship has been established with the young adults in a parish, then as ministers we can get to know them better and learn how the Church can better meet their needs and journey with them through their faith life as well as how the parish can use their gifts and talents to serve the parish community and allow them to find their place within parish life.
This coming weekend, we challenge you to find the young adults within your parish community and ask them their name.
Area Young Adult Groups: Charleston: To find out more, find us on Facebook! Catholic Young Adults - Charleston, WV (CYAC) or contact Morgan Yost at email@example.com Eastern Panhandle: To find out more, find us on Facebook! Eastern Panhandle Catholic Young Adults. If you want to help start an area young adult group near you, contact your vicariate liaison.