June 29, 2018

How can parishes help young people make major life choices?

A banner captures one of the defining themes of the archdiocese’s Office of Young Adult and College Campus Ministry. The website for the archdiocesan ministry for young adults is www.IndyCatholic.org. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

A banner captures one of the defining themes of the archdiocese’s Office of Young Adult and College Campus Ministry. The website for the archdiocesan ministry for young adults is www.IndyCatholic.org. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

It’s a time of major decisions:

Where should I go to college?

What profession should I pursue?

Should I take this job or another one?

Is this the person I want to marry, to share a lifetime?

Is God calling me to the priesthood or religious life?

For young people ages 18 to 35, such choices will define and shape their life and future.

At the same time, the process of making these choices often involves a great deal of anxiety and confusion—and the desire to have someone who will listen to, advise and support them during this process.

That desire is at the heart of an intriguing question that was posed to young adults of the Church in central and southern Indiana who accepted Pope Francis’ invitation to answer a survey that will contribute significantly to the Synod on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment” that will take place at the Vatican in October.

The question: What could your parish do to assist young people in discerning major life decisions (moral decisions, job, college choice, marriage, priesthood, etc.)?

Here are some of the thoughts and insights from the 82 young adults from the archdiocese who responded to that question.

• “Teach us about discernment. We are constantly thinking about our future, but have no clue that the Church has a way to help us with that. Teach us that discernment isn’t just about a religious life, but that it can be used in everyday life to make any large decision with the help of God.”

• “Engage us. Provide opportunities for young people to gather. Have the priests in the parish meet with young people to help us establish a relationship and get to know them personally. Give us time in adoration or reconciliation that fits into our busy work lives. Encourage older adults in the community to act as mentors for us.”

• “Establishing a positive dynamic and allowing us to feel connected into the parish community will help us feel comfortable going to the leaders of our parish for aid in discernment.”

• “Talk about them [young adults] more. It seems that many priests struggle to apply weekly readings in the Mass to today’s culture and the impact it has on our spiritual life. Parishes or dioceses must hold young adult retreats with focuses on these types of issues.”

• “Have a young adult minister to mentor young adults.”

• “I think a parish that has a good relationship with the archdiocese’s vocation office is a good start. Every parish should have a couple that is willing to promote the sacrament of marriage, a priest devoted in encouraging young men to consider the priesthood, and even a young man or woman representing the single life would be good as well.”

• “Offer easier access to spiritual direction and provide it as a short-term option. I could really use some strong guidance outside of parents or a paid counselor to help guide me to decisions. Or even just coffee/dinner with my priest every once in a while to chat through some things.”

• “Have a support group or young adult group that meets to discuss their faith and challenges.”

• “Host more speakers on these topics at individual churches. Set up an international priest e-mail center where people can e-mail their questions to a priest and get an answer within about an hour.”

• “Times to communicate with someone directly after a service.”

• “Continuing to build up a people responsible for—and to—each other will involve discipleship efforts and individual responses to the Gospel. Saints make saints, you know. When we focus on growing in holiness ourselves and being loving to others, the Holy Spirit is able to work in us and those around us.” †

 

Related story: Young adults who love the faith believe parishes need to embrace their generation

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