More and more parish Young Adult Ministries are being challenged on how to reach the young adult populations within their communities. It is always a challenge because technology and modes of communication seem to always be evolving; we just don’t seem to be able to keep up. In many parishes this seems to be the daily struggle. Luckily, one of the many blessings many parishes count with, is the presence of apostolic movements that are engaged in reaching out on behalf of the Gospel of Christ to those that seem to be uninvolved with the parish at large. It is a blessing because of the many possibilities that they bring to parish ministry. In the document “Disciples Called to Witness – The New Evangelization”, the Catholic Bishops of the United States invite us to take a deep look at how we are promoting a culture of discipleship and evangelization that is based on witnessing. They give us guidelines to what the process of evangelization will look like at the parish level. They also make a point to reach out to the parish Apostolic Movements as one of the strategies proposed by the USCCB.
Apostolic Movements are by essence rooted in our shared call to “make disciples of all nations.” They are made up of people of good will who are looking to change society from within and build up the parish. Lay Ecclesial Movements are as defined by Canon law as: Associations of the Christian Faithful (Can. 298 – 329). Canon Law also differentiates from institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life,
“in these associations the Christian faithful, whether clerics, lay persons, or clerics and lay persons together, strive in a common endeavor to foster a more perfect life, to promote public worship or Christian doctrine, or to exercise other works of the apostolate such as initiatives of evangelization, works of piety or charity, and those which animate the temporal order with a Christian spirit.”
Many apostolic movements see their work with young adults as pivotal, since the majority of those leaving the Church today, especially in the Hispanic/Latino culture, are young adults. As young adult ministers, we need to start a dialogue of accompaniment with those in leadership within the movements in the parish. We need to reach out and learn who they are and what their values are.
Our lived experience in ministry has taught us that people are different and will be attracted to many different styles in worship, language, learning and seeking to live the Gospel message in a daily way. Many of these movements are language or culturally based, which is an important fact to acknowledge and support, because we are a diverse body of Christ. The Pew Foundation in its study on the Latino population titled: Changing Faiths: Latinos and the Transformation of American Religion, found that even Hispanic/Latino people who did not identify Spanish as their native language still attended parishes where the majority and/or the priest was of their same heritage/descent.
As young adult ministers, we are the example of Christ love and understanding for those who we minister to and those that minister with us. We are called to be one body, to seek ways that the eye can function as the eye, the hand as the hand and all together make up the body of Christ. As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ …for in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit…so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. 1 Cor 12: 12-13; 25-26. We need to reach out to the good work Apostolic Movements are doing in our parishes, share their joy and see how we together can build the body of Christ in our own communities.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops remind us,
“Parishes that are responsive to young adults from all cultures and circumstances ensure that these young adults are not merely a decorative addition to the parish, but are full participants in and contributors to its life.”
How to create a culture of collaboration:
- Seek out the leadership for Lay Ecclesial Movements in your parish. Listen to their vision statements and mission plans.
- Share your own vision for evangelization and outreach; seek out ways to empower their work and how to share resources in reaching out to all young adults living in your parish.
- Create a pastoral plan were all young adults, including those in Ecclesial Movements, celebrate the Eucharist together during the year. Be mindful of language and music.
- Look for ways to provide formation opportunities for your leadership that enables them to build the Kingdom of God in your parish.
- Find time so that all the leadership can celebrate together what the Lord is accomplishing in your parish.
 “Connecting Young Adults to Catholic Parishes” USCCB 2010
2013 © Alejandro Barraza. All Rights Reserved.
girl photo by jesse.millan , group photo by moodboardphotography