Every parish has them. They are college students and young professionals. They are single and married. They are young couples preparing for marriage and new parents bringing babies for baptism.
They are the young adults in our parishes and communities whose lives are full of transition and who are faced with very important life choices.
Helping them make more grace-filled, intentional choices at this stage of their lives and engage in their parishes was the goal of a two-day young adult retreat funded in part by a Foundation grant this past year. The grant funding helped make the cost of the retreat more affordable, resulting in nearly 20 attendees.
Titled "What Next", the retreat was sponsored by the diocesan Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministry and held at Christ the King Seminary, and was open to young adults in their 20s and 30s from parishes throughout the diocese. The event included overnight accommodations and meals at the Seminary, Mass, reconciliation, prayer and other activities aimed at spiritual direction.
The retreat was based on a program of Charis Ministries, a Chicago-based Jesuit ministry that reaches out to young adults, nurturing their faith through programs based on Ignatian spirituality. The Diocese of Buffalo is a member of the Charis Ministries Retreat Partner Program and as such can tap into the expertise and resources offered by Charis to reach young adults.
According to Kathy Goller, director of the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministry in the Diocese of Buffalo, there has been an increase in requests for programs aimed at young adults in local parishes, an important segment of the congregations that may sometimes be overlooked.
"Just a couple of years ago, our department added 'Young Adult' to our name because of the growing need to reach out to 20 and 30 year olds and help them deepen their faith," she said. "The retreat was specifically for this group and was created to help them find answers with faith to the many decisions they must make at this point in their lives."
Young adults were invited to the retreat through parish bulletin announcements, social media and a growing e-mail list of young adults maintained by the department. A core team of young adult volunteers helped organize the retreat along with staff from the diocese, including Laurie Marshanke, Ministry Development Coordinator who noted the success of the program.
"We had men and women from every area of the diocese, north and south, including married couples, couples who were dating, and single people," she said. "Participants serving as witnesses shared stories on being newly married, on adopting a baby and on maintaining a relationship. Each one pointed to their Christian faith as helping them make decisions during such life transitions."
Richard Suchan, Executive Director of the Foundation, noted the importance of such programs to help our parishes attract and retain young adults members who can grow and develop as future leaders in the church. "The Foundation recognizes that programs such as this retreat are more important than ever to keep and bring back young adults in our parishes," he concluded. "We want to help them rediscover and live the belief."