Parish launches young-adult group - Catholic Courier

Parish launches young-adult group

Young Catholics in their 20s and 30s aren’t always sure where they fit into their parish communities and what role their faith plays in their lives, but several young adults in the Newark area are a few steps closer to finding those answers.

St. Michael’s Parish in Newark recently formed a young-adult ministry, and youth minister Mary Dundas took on the added role of young-adult ministry coordinator. The parish decided to form the ministry because parishioners from several different age groups expressed interest in and support for the idea, she said.

Before the new ministry was formed, Dundas heard comments from several grandparents who wished their young-adult grandchildren would become more involved in the parish. She also talked to a number of former youth-group members who felt they had a specific niche in the parish when they were teens but not as young adults.

Once the parish decided to create opportunities specifically for young adults, Dundas wanted to find out what young adults were looking for and what events they would be willing to participate in, she said. She spent about a year meeting with Catholics in their 20s and 30s. Some were married; some were single. Some had children; some did not. Some were full-time students, and others had full-time jobs.

“I didn’t specifically target any one group,” Dundas noted.

Rather, she wanted to learn what the people in each group sought from their parish and what types of events they’d most likely attend.

Many Catholic young adults are looking for ways to meet and develop relationships with peers who share their faith, said Dan Winkler, 27. Winkler and his wife, Kate, hosted one of the preliminary meetings at their house. A lot of his peers spend their evenings at local bars, but that’s just not his scene, Winkler said.

“It’s hard to find a place where you can meet other people our own age who share the same values we have,” said Winkler, who became a Catholic in 2001.

Winkler is involved with several ministries at his parish, including the Stephen Ministry and finance council, but said he doesn’t see many other people his age in these groups. Young adults may not know about all the opportunities at their parishes, or they may not feel comfortable enough to become involved, Dundas said.

If young adults have a niche within the parish where they can connect with their Catholic peers, they might begin to feel more comfortable in the parish, she said, adding that several of them might even band together and branch out to explore other ministries they might have been too intimidated to try on their own.

“The idea is you’re creating an opportunity for people to meet and share their faith,” Dundas said. “You really want to find a core group you can do things with. You kind of need the little transition place.”

Armed with information from her meetings with young adults, Dundas developed a calendar of young-adult opportunities, which can be found at www.stmichaelsnewark.org/young_adults.htm. There are usually at least three young-adult events each month, and Dundas tries to offer diverse opportunities that will appeal to a broad range of young adults.

“I do think that’s been a bit of a challenge, just because everyone is at different stages,” Winkler said. “I think it is challenging, but I think Mary has done a pretty good job as far as organizing a variety of things.”

One recurring opportunity is the book-of-the-month club, where participants gather once each month in the St. Michael’s School library to discuss that month’s literary selection. The calendar also includes movie-and-discussion nights, retreats, Bible-study opportunities and young-adult Masses.

The most popular young-adult event is Theology on Tap, which is cosponsored by the parish’s young-adult ministry and the Diocese of Rochester. During these events, which are held at Parker’s Grille and Tap House in Newark, featured speakers lead discussions about Catholic issues.The next Theology on Tap session will take place at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1, and Sister Kathleen Wayne, vocations director for the Sisters of Mercy of Rochester, will lead the discussion, titled, “Is It a Sin to Be Middle Class?”

Dundas said she tries to offer enough different events to touch everyone at least once. She enjoys working with young adults because they show a strong desire to learn about their faith and how it works in their lives, she said.

“I think that the excitement of the young-adult group for me is that seeking. There is so much to know. Our faith is a mystery. There is no end point,” Dundas said.

Although the fledgling young-adult ministry is still growing and changing, Winkler said it has already helped him form connections with his peers in the parish.

“You definitely recognize another face at church,” Winkler said. “I think if people just tried it once they would like it enough to get them to come to future events.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on the young-adult ministry at St. Michael’s, contact Mary Dundas at 315/331-3408 or e-mail her at stmyouth@juno.com.

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