By Allyson Escobar     6/2/2016

Ministry leaders, parishioners, students and young adults from around the Diocese of Orange gathered at the Pastoral Center of Christ Cathedral on May 23 for the first Young Adult Listening Session.

“We hope this collaborative gathering will nurture our strengths as young adult leaders, alleviate barriers, and supply you with practical tools and strategies for growing our ministry,” Cecilia Phan, young adult ministry coordinator with the Diocese, shared. “Hopefully, this will better equip us to meet the various needs of our young adult community.”

Representatives from various communities around Orange County included St. Vincent de Paul (Huntington Beach), St. Thomas More (Irvine), Holy Spirit parish (Fountain Valley), St. Barbara (Santa Ana), St. Timothy (Laguna Niguel), Our Lady Queen of Angels (Irvine), St. Justin Martyr (Anaheim), St. Mary’s (Fullerton), and the Titan Catholic club at California State University, Fullerton.

“A lot of young adults are scattered in their parishes, and needing to be fed. The more connected we are, the better our ministries will be,” said Father Andrew Bartus, pastor of Blessed John Henry Newman in Irvine, who works closely with young adults in the diocese and helped facilitate the meeting. “What is our mission statement and vision? Where do we want young adult ministry to be?”

The meeting served as an open-dialogue forum for people to voice their ministerial goals, challenges, and hopes for the future.

“We need to build a bridge that’s firm, easily replicable business model that can be transitioned between the youth, college-aged, young adult, and married groups, at the parish and diocesan level,” commented one church minister.

Attendees also included leaders struggling with growth, and those who want to start up young adult communities in their churches, but have no idea where to start.

“We want young adults to leave events feeling seen and known, meeting them where they are through the embodiment of love,” one person said. “It’s about creating a place of authentic fellowship and encountering Jesus.”

Many of the challenges expressed included limited funding, resources, finding a meeting space, and getting top-down support from the clergy. Members also expressed burnout of ministers, people getting too comfortable, and young adult groups sometimes “feeling like it’s youth group 2.0.”

People also talked about improving general communication and outreach, including strategies such as the new mobile app, intended to connect young adults to events and opportunities throughout the diocese.

“How can we push the envelope? We don’t want [young adult ministry] to become the onslaught of events people skip on Facebook, but rather become something which sticks out, giving an expectation of high quality,” said David Calavitta, speaker and minister with The City Lights.

“If we don’t pray for a vision, for guidance and humility, we will try to do too much and water ourselves down, not doing things effectively. If we put one thing and focus on that, we can improve the quality [of ministry].”

The leaders all agreed that having solid formation programming, collaborating between parishes, and the “familial” feeling in young adult ministry would create a stronger, more united community and foster a deeper sense of discipleship.

Added Calavitta, “When the church goes out, the world comes home.”