Rochester young-adult group promotes belonging, connection - Catholic Courier

Rochester young-adult group promotes belonging, connection

A message on the website for the young-adult ministry Converge urges visitors to “find a place to belong.”

“We’re creating a sense of belonging first that leads to believing and eventually gets to behavior,” said Tyler Davis, pastoral associate for youth and young adults at Southeast Rochester Catholic Community, which is part of Converge.

Davis referred to Father James Mallon, founder of Divine Renovation, who has proposed a model for discipleship that starts with belonging to a Catholic community, then moves to believing in the Catholic faith and finally to behaving as a Catholic. This model of Catholic life upends the classic model of evangelizing: behaving like a Catholic, then believing, and finally belonging, Davis said.

The Converge team decided this was the best model to adopt for young-adult ministry when it formed in 2022 as a collaboration between Peace of Christ Parish, St. Kateri Parish and Southeast Rochester Catholic Community.

Collaboration among parishes grows young adult ministries

Luke Nolan, director of catechetical programs and youth ministry at Peace of Christ, explained that young-adult ministries in Rochester had been languishing with low attendance and little buy-in. Then, in the fall of 2022, St. Kateri young-adult ministers Michele and Lou Fiorvanti reached out to area parishes hoping to collaborate, which resulted in Converge.

“There was an acknowledgement that it’s good to work together with other parishes,” Nolan said.

“We just started listening to more young adults,” recalled Will Rein, pastoral associate at Peace of Christ. “We tried some different things, simplifying our events to leave space for people to get to know one another and to grow emotionally and spiritually together.”

At present, Converge is a flourishing community of 18- to 39-year-olds, with 30 to 40 participants coming to every event, Rein said. Because of this, the ministry’s planning team has had to host events in large spaces such as church halls, he added, although small groups also have formed for more intimate faith sharing.

Ministry planning team forms young-adult leaders

Converge’s planning team, which includes St. Kateri’s Catechetical Coordinator Anna Steele in addition to Nolan, Davis and Rein, involves more than just parish staff members, Davis said. He noted that young adults are invited to plan and assess the opportunities and events they are co-creating for themselves and each other. The team strives to offer four or five events a month, Davis said, adding that they are careful not to plan on top of other Rochester parishes’ young-adult events. Flexibility and frequency of events have been key to bringing people together, he said.

During a Jan. 3 Converge planning meeting, which included nine in-person and three Zoom participants, young-adult leaders expressed a desire for connection within the church, not necessarily to talk about theology, but to form relationships with others who understand the value of friendship and have similar interests and morals.

One member at the planning meeting, Jesse Martin, expressed his desire to make good friendships that last and “to find people to hang out with” outside of Converge’s planned events.

Diverse young adults seek connection and stability

Converge members have diverse backgrounds, Davis said, including professionals, recent immigrants, graduate students and undergraduate students, but they share a common desire for connection and stability.

There also is diversity in where members are in their faith journeys, he added, noting that some are practicing Catholics, some have fallen away from the church, others are from Protestant denominations, and a few are atheists searching for truth and community.

There also are members who come from different faith perspectives within Catholicism, Davis said.

“People who come … are (traditional) Latin Mass attenders and people who would definitely consider themselves progressive. It’s been beautiful to see people say, in the same venue, that … what we have in common unites us so much more,” he remarked.

Davis noted that many young adults coming to Converge have recently moved to Rochester, while others tend to hop between parishes and Masses depending on what’s going on in their lives with work or school. Because of their lifestyles, many young adults feel lonely and disconnected, he said.

“What’s been so powerful for us is intentionality,” Davis said, referring to the ministry’s personal and purposeful invitation to young adults. “When we reach people, it’s been communicating with them to show that you’re not just a number, you’re not just ‘a young adult.’ You’re a person.”


EDITOR’S NOTE: Converge has scheduled several events during April, including an April 7 trip to Mendon Ponds. For more information on Converge’s monthly events, visit www.converge-roc.com.

Tags: Faith Formation, Monroe County East
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