At the college level, finding a community of people with similar interests can seem like an easy task. In the real world, however, it isn’t always that easy. The desire for community expands rapidly as New Orleans’ young adults struggle to find a place for them to live and grow in the Catholic faith.
Rachel Longest, archdiocesan young adult ministry coordinator, and Laura Quigley, associate chaplain at Loyola University New Orleans, have teamed up to form Christian Life Communities (CLCs) throughout the archdiocese for young adults graduated from college. Already in place at Loyola and Jesuit universities across the country, CLCs consist of groups of six to 10 people and are founded in Ignatian spirituality, grounded in each individual’s own experience and finding God in all things.
“The idea is to engage in discernment together, reflecting on where to find God in your life, so that you can really fulfill God’s mission,” Quigley said.
Seeking a bond
Working in conjunction with Loyola University and the National CLC-USA office, Longest and Quigley hope to promote CLCs in the archdiocese in response to the young adults’ desire for community.
“The greatest need expressed by young adults has been the need for community,” Longest said. “It’s not only the concern of the parish and the pastor. If we can bring that community to young adults throughout the Archdiocese of New Orleans, then that’s progress. It requires a middleman connection.”
Although meetings are determined by the CLC groups themselves, Quigley said a typical meeting includes “opening prayer, a focusing question to get the group talking, an activity based on the focusing question, discussion and sharing of experiences and illuminating instances of God’s presence, an evaluation question in which the group discerns God’s movement in the meeting and a closing prayer.”
CLCs can also form social gatherings and community activities. “This is a group that is made up of young adults,” Longest said. “The group leadership is up to the (members of the) group themselves.”
CLCs require commitment due to the intimacy of personal sharing. Thus, Longest recommends a three-session commitment before deciding whether CLCs will be beneficial.
“You’re not going to have instant chemistry with your group,” Longest said. “You have to see how the group evolves. ”
In some instances, CLCs are a life-long commitment among group members that are formed during the students’ undergraduate years.
“They join in their 20s and then those people will accompany you throughout life,” Quigley said. “It’s really inspiring to see, and it’s something I want to pass on to my students.”
Having been involved in the CLC at Loyola University since her freshman year, Annie Halbert felt lost without her faith community and is looking forward to the new initiative.
“I ended up in a CLC, and that put me on a track and gave me a solid community that I was close to in a specific, faith-sharing way,” she said. “I had six people who knew everything about my faith life and were a constant reminder of God in my life. CLC kept me a Christian and didn’t let my fire for my faith go out.”
After the initial meeting, Longest and Quigley hope to form two CLCs and begin meeting during the second week of August.
“The goal is really to help young adults find a community where they belong and to facilitate some form of support for them to be comfortable for them to make decisions in their lives,” Longest said. “Young adults have a lot of big decisions and discernment really helps guide them to make decisions they can feel confident in.”
In the future, Longest and Quigley have high hopes for CLCs to be found across the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
“Ideally, we’d like a vibrant community where there are six or seven or more groups meeting all the time,” Quigley said.
“Down the road, when people move into the area and they want some type of community to join, my hope would be that they can contact Laura or me and within a few weeks, we’d be able to have a community for them to join,” Longest said.
Those interested in joining CLCs in their community can contact Rachel Longest at email@example.com or Laura Quigley at firstname.lastname@example.org.