Ministry helps Finger Lakes parish connect with young adults - Catholic Courier

Ministry helps Finger Lakes parish connect with young adults

The Young Adult Ministry at St. Benedict Parish in Canandaigua and Bloomfield is just five years old but already has evolved to meet the changing needs of its population, and this evolution probably won’t stop any time soon, according to DeAnna Brennan, who coordinates the ministry with her husband, Mike.

“We’re letting the Holy Spirit guide the process,” she explained.

Ministry grew out of young adults’ desire to find others with shared Catholic beliefs

St. Benedict’s Young Adult Ministry grew out of several parishioners’ desire to find peers with shared beliefs, according to Shannon Van Heck, who with her husband, Ben, helped to cofound the ministry in 2019.

The Van Hecks loved St. Benedict Parish, which they’d joined in 2017, but were disappointed it did not have a young-adult ministry.

“We try to live our faith. We wanted to find other people who put their faith at the forefront of their lives. Those are the people we want to be friends with,” Van Heck remarked. “We kept saying maybe we should try to start something.”

After talking to Father Michael Costik, pastor at St. Benedict, the Van Hecks planned a series of monthly gatherings hosted in participants’ homes, Van Heck recalled. At each meeting, participants shared a meal, then watched and discussed a catechetical video. The group also met quarterly for such social events as ice skating or backyard barbecues.

Young-adult ministry’s format changed to meet members’ evolving needs

Less than a year after the group formed, however, the pandemic caused by COVID-19 forced the young adults to stop meeting. The group’s gatherings never quite returned to their former format, noted Brennan, who with her husband stepped up to lead the group after the Van Hecks had their first child.

“We kind of had to pivot what we were doing, because people just weren’t comfortable anymore going to someone’s private home to do a Bible study,” Brennan remarked.

The young adults had felt isolated during the days of the pandemic lock-downs, so when restrictions on gathering were lifted, they craved social connection more than ever, Van Heck said.

“That’s what people were missing,” she said, and the group evolved to meet those needs. “You can watch the (catechetical) videos on your own time, but you can’t replace being able to interact with people that are like-minded, and question the same things, and want to find the same answers, and … want to live your life the way we’re called to.”

In addition to the quarterly social gatherings, the ministry now hosts coffee hours after the 9 a.m. Mass at St. Mary Church in Canandaigua on the third Sunday of each month.

“We wanted to gain some more traction with the young adults … and have something on the calendar that was consistent,” Brennan said.

Ministry helps young adults stay connected to parish despite family, work responsibilities

Coffee hours are good ways to connect with young adults who go to Mass but may not be involved in other parish activities, Van Heck said. Parish faith-formation and youth-ministry programs keep school-age children, teens and their parents closely connected to their parishes, she said, and older adults who are more established in their careers and whose children are grown often have more time to volunteer with parish ministries. However, she noted, it can be hard for people in “that limbo period” between the ages of 18 and 40 to find their places in their parishes.

“This is the age that we are raising families, and it’s hard to devote time to anything when you’re raising a family,” she said.

A young-adult ministry can bridge that gap by ensuring young parents and young professionals have a network of peers to support them as they strive to live out their faith. Family and career responsibilities may make it hard for young adults to be active in parish life, but if their faith is still central to their lives, they will become more actively involved when their situations allow, as long as they’ve remained connected to their parishes, Van Heck said.

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