June 5, 2020

Pastoral Ministries / Madison Cipoletti

What type of ministry can survive a global pandemic?

Madison CipolettiDuring the past few months, to varying degrees, we have experienced the worry, disbelief and uncertainty that come with a crisis.

Throughout my life, when I have found myself asking, “Why, God?” or “What is the purpose of this?” I find peace and comfort in one of my favorite quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it” (#311).

So, through the lens of faith and hope in God’s mysterious ability to make good come out of evil, I’d like to share a branch of our ministry that has been essentially untouched by the pandemic.

In case you are unfamiliar, the archdiocesan Office of Young Adult and College Campus Ministry is charged with serving 18-39 year-olds. We work with parishes throughout central and southern Indiana to help them minister to the young adults in their parish boundaries.

In Indianapolis, we have a centralized outreach called IndyCatholic that we hope to replicate in other areas of our archdiocese. IndyCatholic gathers for various large group events (250 people and more) throughout the year.

Large group events, because of

COVID-19, are even now in the later phases of re-opening plans. Our team has had countless conversations throughout the pandemic about what to do in planning these large events when the future is so unknown and restrictions exist.

However, there is one branch of our ministry that was not stifled, but was instead strengthened during the pandemic. And that is small group ministry.

Rather than having to cancel or postpone small groups, two weeks into the shutdown, we trained eight new leaders who joined the ranks of our 30 existing leaders throughout the archdiocese. Those new leaders now serve more than 50 new young adults by meeting weekly online to pray and discuss the Scriptures together. No contingency plans or detailed procedures were needed; groups simply transitioned to meeting together online.

Francis Chan, a well-known evangelical preacher, has referenced the need for small group ministry. He illustrates his point by looking at religious history in both Russia and China.

When Russia fell under harsh religious persecution, the Church, which had been based around the building and priests alone, was devastated and today is essentially non-existent.

In China, however, the laity were empowered to not just be followers, but to be leaders. Churches in China were centered around small Christian communities, and to this day, the underground Church in China continues to grow.

When challenges like religious persecution or pandemics arise, small group ministry allows us to continue deepening our faith within an intimate community. I’m not suggesting that there is no place for large group ministry, but this experience begs the question: What type of ministry are we investing our resources in as a Church and as an individual follower of Jesus?

Just imagine: What would the Church in the United States look like if all Sunday Mass-attending Catholics were also engaged in a small group community? How could you grow by gathering with close friends who encourage you to pray and apply the Scriptures to your everyday life?

Imagining a Church rooted in small group ministry gives me hope for any future crisis our world or Church may face.

(Madison Cipoletti is the director of the archdiocesan Office of Young Adult and College Campus Ministry in the Pastoral Ministries Secretariat. If you would like more information about small group ministry, she can be reached at mcipoletti@archindy.org. For more information, visit yaccm.org or indycatholic.org.) †

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