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Bishop Meets with Young Adults to Gain Insights on Young Adult Ministry

08/10/2011

The main task for us all is that of a new evangelization aimed at helping younger generations to rediscover the true face of God, who is Love.” Pope Benedict XVI, Message for World Youth Day, 2009

Throughout 2011, the Diocese of Gaylord has been celebrating its 40th Anniversary. It has been a time to reflect upon where we have been and the wonderful ministries that the Catholic Church has undertaken in northern Lower Michigan. At the same time, we are also called to look to the future and how we might even more fully meet the challenge to share God’s love and the Gospel message.

Low_res_K.jpgIn an effort to learn about how the Diocese of Gaylord might better minister to and with young adults, Bishop Bernard Hebda hosted a barbeque for young adults at St. Mary Cathedral on July 30. Facilitated by Dannie Brzezinski, Director of the Secretariat for Faith Development, the event brought together 25 young adults from across the diocese not only for a picnic meal, but an opportunity to meet one another, pray together and share insights and ideas with the Bishop. Liz Gengle, the High School Youth Minister in Petoskey, was also key in getting the initiative underway, creating a poster and spreading the word to young adults.

“When we talk about people in an age range of 18-35, it is a group with many variables encompassing a wide range of ages and stages of life,” noted Brzezinski. “Our challenge is to find ways to reach out to them and to support them on their faith journey.”

“It’s really important to me to hear what our young people had to say about their experiences and hopes -- and how we, as a diocese, might more effectively address their needs,” Bishop Hebda stated.

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After the meal, participants gathered on the grass outside the Cathedral and were invited to share their thoughts. ‘We really wanted it to be an informal ‘listening session’,” Brzezinski said.

As participants introduced themselves, it became evident that there is a desire for young adult ministry across the diocese since some had travelled from various regions including: Tawas, Mackinaw City, Lake Leelanau, Alpena, Traverse City, Frankfort, Petoskey, Cedar, Elk Rapids and Vanderbilt. Some had recently moved to northern Michigan from downstate and shared examples of programs and gatherings in their previous dioceses. Also present during the evening were Fr. James Bearss, Pastor of the Northern Lights Catholic Community and Fr. Matthew Wigton, Administrator at St. Mary in Charlevoix. The two priests have been requested by Bishop Hebda to help spearhead efforts to minister to young adults in our diocese.

bbq_low_res_1.jpgThe group discussed the challenge of the distance between parishes in the Diocese of Gaylord and the feeling of isolation some experience living in communities where there seem to be few young adults. They also pointed out that the needs within young adult ministry can also differ, noting while some specific programs might work well for those who do not have children, they would not work for those who do.

Indicating a deep desire to be able to attend daily Mass, the group shared that sometimes it is difficult because many in their age group are building careers and may work longer or nontraditional hours. They suggested some Masses might be offered in the evening or other time so they might gather with the faith community around the Eucharistic table. They also suggested that more opportunities for Holy Hours or Adoration would be helpful, particularly for those with children.

“Holy Hours provide a little more freedom to come and go as you need to,” remarked one participant. “Like for me, with small children, I might not be able to do a whole hour, but I could do a Holy Half-Hour.”

Others agreed stating it could be helpful for those with demanding work schedules as well.

Communication of events to this age group was also noted as a challenge. They suggested the increased use of additional technologies along with traditional forms of communication might be beneficial. They also suggested drawing from Christian Leadership Institute program alumni and connecting with those in marriage and baptismal prep sessions as a way to begin to reach out to young adults.

While some specific ideas were discussed, the over-arching theme was that a variety of opportunities and approaches would be necessary. Events should include social time as well as time for prayer and catechesis. Activities might include camping, sports events, discussion groups, and so forth. Due to the travel difficulties in such a geographically large diocese, the group suggested events be held on a rotating basis in various locations or on a regional level, with special events taking place in Gaylord a few times a year. The concept of a central young adult ministry council that would meet regularly to help grow this ministry was also discussed.

Following the discussion, the group gathered in the Chapel of the Cathedral for prayer before leaving for home.

Reflecting on the evening, Bishop Hebda said, “It was a wonderful group. I was really pleased that they were all so willing to openly share their thoughts and ideas. It’s up to us now to take the next step to keep this initiative moving forward and we intend to do that by October.”

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