Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Young adult ministry: "You are not forgotten"

“The church usually skips a generation; it goes from serving youth to serving adults, and young adults are usually left out,” Rouzan said, echoing her peers.

The 37-year-old administrative assistant at Loyola Marymount University felt the need of stretching her relationship with God, but it was hard for her to apply the Scriptures to her own life.

Until she joined the young adult ministry at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Los Angeles, where 80 percent of the 1,000 registered families are African Americans. She is now the director of the group’s “Shining FAITH” choir and one of the ministry leaders.

Retreats and prayer groups conducted by Deacon Douglass Johnson and his wife Sheree, who made the young adult ministry the focus of their diaconate, led to Bible studies and round table faith sharing discernment sessions. That in turn resulted in the organization of a “solid core group of leaders,” who are the “foundation of the ministry,” according to Johnson.

In an effort to draw more members, Holy Name of Jesus recently hosted its first Young Adult Monthly Mass, with Father Paul Spellman, pastor, presiding.

“This is a new beginning, you are giving birth to new hope,” Deacon Johnson said in his homily. “You are not forgotten,” he told the young adults, reiterating the ministry’s motto “Young but not forgotten.”

He also praised Pope John Paul II for “championing young adult ministries” and supported those who “have doubts in their spiritual journey.”

“When we become Thomas, Jesus says, ‘That’s ok, I’m not going to persuade you; touch me, I’m still broken,’” he said, citing the Scriptural account when St. Thomas doubted the appearance of the risen Christ.

“His [Jesus’] gift to us is his brokenness, so we can also be wounded healers,” Deacon Johnson noted. He urged the assembly to “stand at the cross in prayer” asking God to “fill the church” with young people.

His dream, he added, is to see the parish become a “parish without boundaries.”

Anderson Shaw, director of the archdiocesan African American Catholic Center for Evangelization, praised Johnson’s effort, but admitted that the task is challenging.

“What Deacon Johnson is attempting to do in reaching out liturgically to our youth and specifically our young adults is a commendable effort,” he said. “One of the major challenges in the evangelization of African American Catholics and the Church at large is how do we keep our youth and young adults engaged in parish life. There are significant numbers of Catholic young adults, baptized and confirmed that are unaffiliated or connected with any parish.”

Oliska Batiste, mother of 19-year-old Amanda Batiste, concurred. “This is very important; it’s what all kids need,” she said of the new ministry. “We have to try not to lose the youth in our church.”

Holy Name of Jesus parishioner Janna Jones, 31, joined the young adult ministry as soon as she graduated from Arizona State University.

“We have to be very vocal,” she noted. “Young adults need to be heard and be utilized by the church in a proper way.”

She said most of the young adults in the inner city tend to hide their thoughts about God. Having a young adult ministry would help draw them back to church and equip them for a “realistic approach to life and the church” as well as assuming greater responsibilities within the church, she said.

Father Spellman — who ministry participants praised for making time for the new ministry, investing in the choir and approving the 5 p.m. monthly young adult Mass — welcomed that idea. “We need to reach out to our young people in the inner city,” said the pastor.

For Deacon Johnson, the new ministry is an “act of social justice.”

“Young adults are navigating their way through the pitfalls of life,” he said. “This is a time of great pressure: Many have young children, new jobs, or are looking for jobs with a growing sense of insecurity.”

Noting that drugs, alcohol and extramarital sex become viable options to meet a young adult’s immediate desires, he acknowledged a need for “Scripture to become the living word in each other.”

The new ministry, he said, will provide a new “honest and not intimidating” perspective, facilitating the young adult’s “journey back home.”

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