Engaging young adults in church life - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Engaging young adults in church life

It’s good to be with you again in the pages of the Catholic Courier. Much as I enjoyed the respite during vacation from normal daily scheduling, I am happy to be re-engaged in the life of our wonderful diocese.

I thank most sincerely all of my co-workers whose commitment and generosity allowed me such a carefree vacation. I thank you for your prayers and for your kindness in sending birthday greetings. Your goodness made my entry into my 67th year a pleasant experience.

During a talk about generational differences — given at our Priests’ Convocation in late April — Bill Pickett, our director of pastoral planning, described one’s 66th birthday as entry into elderhood. I had never heard the term before and was intrigued by it. When my birthday came, I remembered Bill’s use of elderhood and had some fun talking about it with Howard and Tom, my vacation buddies.

I think of it again as I write because this afternoon at St. Thomas More in Brighton, I’ll be joining a group of young adults for a picnic and the eucharistic liturgy. That event will gather women and men aged 18-40 who wish to share and grow in faith with their peers. And, although I am sure each will have her or his particular reason for attending, my guess is that they will hold in common a spiritual thirst, a desire for deeper life.

We had a lot of excellent input about their generation at our convocation, and much interesting discussion about its members. As I remember those stimulating sessions, I recall some of the central themes that emerged:

1) The 18-40 generation seeks a spiritual life.

2) They have a different attitude toward institutions — the church included — than that held by us approaching or already arrived at elderhood.

3) They are a gifted group with a much wider range of life options than we enjoyed.

4) They have many questions about church and faith, and expect clear and honest answers to them.

It was clear to me at our assembly in April that all of the priests and pastoral ministers who participated hold these young adults in great affection. We want very much that they should be participants in the life of the church — for our good and, we hope, for theirs.

But we also realize that we need to work hard to engage them. Some questions illustrate the challenge. Where and when can we meet them? Are we as willing to listen as we are anxious to speak? How do we meet them, work with them where their spiritual thirst intersects with the church’s rich spiritual heritage? How do we accompany them, support them as they cope with the enormous cultural, social and economic pressures of the day?

We certainly won’t explore these questions this afternoon. Our time together will be limited, and it’s a moment for relaxation and renewal. But I very much look forward to the gathering as an opportunity to hear something about the lives of these wonderful people, their hopes and dreams, the questions and problems that tax their spirits.

I should mention that today’s session was planned and organized under the leadership of Shannon Loughlin, who heads up our diocesan program of young-adult ministry, Father Lee Chase, pastor of St. Thomas More, and their committee.

You have been kind enough to read these words. If you are between 18 and 40 years of age, may I ask you to think about two questions: What does the church need to understand about you in order to serve you more lovingly? What concrete steps might we take to connect effectively with you as you look for satisfaction of your spiritual hunger?

If you are closer in age to me than you are to our younger friends, I invite you to think about that generation. How are they different from us? Which of those differences please us? Which of them cause concern? How do we initiate/sustain respectful, mutually beneficial conversations between the generations?

It really is good to be back with you. Thanks for your support.

Peace to all.

Tags: Bishop Matthew H. Clark
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