Young adults are poised for action, leadership

aymond    You recently talked to a large group of young adults at Theology on Tap. What was the theme of your remarks?
    The group wanted me to talk about being a producer in a consumer society. Young adults are so used to being consumers. In a sense, they have the experience of going to Mass on Sunday where they are the consumer, but they wanted to know how they could turn that around and also be producers and contribute to parish life in a way that would show that they are grateful participants in the parish community. It was an intriguing and challenging theme.
    How are parishes doing in their outreach to young adults?
    I think most parishes do a great job providing formation for children and youth, and they do very well for married couples, but the young adults sometimes get lost. We don’t always give enough thought and attention to them on the parish level. All the statistics show that young adults are marrying later than in the past. We have this span from about 19 years old to about 32 or 35 where they don’t fit into either one of those groups. So the question is, what can the church do to reach out to them? My invitation to the young adults is to let us hear their voice and teach us how we can involve them so that they can become not just consumers in the parish, but producers.
    Why are some parishes struggling in this area?
    I think it’s because we’re not used to it. Perhaps we don’t know what their needs are. Young adults live very full lives. We are all consumers, but in this day and age, we are consumed. We are consumed by the computer and by commercials on TV that push products that we should buy to make us look better. We are consumed by our cell phones, voice mail and email, texting, Twitter and Facebook. We are consumed by DVDs and movies, which, in many instances, have amoral themes and lack ethical values. We are so consumed in our daily lives that we have to be intentionally quiet and create silence so that we can become more comfortable with ourselves.
    Is being quiet a prerequisite to building a relationship with God?
    Yes. Many people and things are consuming us and trying to get our attention in the world. We are sort of the victims of that. We have to quiet ourselves in order to allow God to get our attention. He has lots of competition. The young adults I talked to obviously have heard God’s invitation because they attended the gathering and, by their presence, they indicated they wanted to talk about God and their relationship with God.
    Did you offer some specific suggestions?
    I broke it down into three things, using the acronym PAL. That stands for Prayer, Action and Leadership.
    I invited them to a deeper personal prayer life with the Lord Jesus to get to know him better. I suggested they spend time in prayer, reading the scriptures, doing spiritual reading and perhaps getting a spiritual director.
    The second point is action. That’s where they begin to become producers. It’s not just talking the talk but walking the walk. How can they live out their values of honesty and respect for others and reject the idea of getting ahead at the expense of another? How can they build up other people, take a healthy approach to sexuality, avoid addictions and take care of themselves?
    Then, as they show action, the third point is leadership. They can lead others to Christ, particularly in the private conversations they have with others about their faith. They can invite others to discipleship, especially those who are away from the church or those who have been hurt by the church.
    I challenged them to be more active in the parish. Some parish communities might be more open than others, but it would be nice to have young adults on the pastoral council. Two of the people I was sitting with at the table had degrees in business, and one was a CPA. I would love to have those young adults on the finance council.
    I also invited them to think about starting a young adult group in their parish or offering to serve as a reader, eucharistic minister or usher. I particularly asked them to think about volunteering with their parish youth group. Very often the youth group directors are people who have been very generously offering their service for a very long time, but they could be greatly helped by young adults who are living their faith. Faith-filled young adults can be such great role models for our youth. The archdiocese also has a mentoring program, and we’re looking for young adults to be mentors for children and teens who are living in challenging family situations. One of the things we don’t do well enough in the church, I think, is taking care of children with disabilities. Maybe they as young adults could come up with a way for us to do that.
    Did you get a good feeling from the meeting?
 
   I was deeply touched by their faith, their questions and their presence. Another exciting young adult group in the archdiocese is Christ in the City, which meets every first Tuesday of the month at Notre Dame Seminary. They have a holy hour followed by a social. I invite them over to my house twice a year for a reception. I also meet every year with the medical students from Tulane and LSU and with law students from Tulane and Loyola. It’s always a great time. I am privileged in that I get to hear their faith questions, and I see their commitment to Christ. I see them sharing their faith with one another. The church is very much alive and well among young adults. It’s something we take for granted. I invite  parishes to reach out more to young adults and to invite them to become an active part of their ministries. Our young adults have a lot to offer. They want to be producers, not just consumers.
    Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to clarionherald@clarionherald.org.

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