Over the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about my participation in the “The Catholic Partnership Summit.” It was held in Washington D.C. and was hosted by the Catholic Leadership Roundtable. I was privileged to sit at a table of tremendous, bright, experienced, and hopeful Catholics.
The “Summit” this year focused especially on YOU – the laity. It examined the right – and the responsibility – of the laity to address the current situation in the church themselves. Thus, the key idea for this year’s summit was “co-responsibility.” The goal was to imagine the future we all want to create together.
The final topic dealt with the future of our church – youth. Specifically, it focused on:
- Young Adults
- Their place at the table
- Their role in the leadership of the Church – in the future and now.
We heard from a panel of emerging Catholic leaders who shared their experiences and expressed their vision for a transformed and thriving Church. The question we discussed was, “How do we create a Church culture that embraces the ideas and gifts of a diversity of young Catholics?” Below are recommendations that were proposed.
An Inclusive, Participatory Leadership Culture”
- Create a robust process by which to listen and solicit feedback from a diverse group of people.
- Acquire input and feedback from multiple formats (In-person meetings, social media, surveys, etc.)
- Engage young people at the grassroots and ensure their voices are included and lifted up from the local to the regional to the national level.
- Provide resources to engage feedback that are culturally appropriate and sensitive to diverse audiences.
Ministry With, For, and By Young Adults:
- Create new ministries that engage young adult Catholics, from their creation to their delivery.
- Provide pastoral care for young adults at different stages. This would include key issues and transitional moments during young adulthood. Examples would be:
- Entering the workforce for the first time.
- Entry and graduation from college.
- Marriage and starting a family.
- Working through economic struggles.
- Challenges dealing with issues of mental health.
- Including people on the margins (migrants, excluded groups, etc.)
- Engage young adult Catholics not only in the pews, but also the unaffiliated. Use the works of justice, beauty, the intellectual tradition, missionary evangelization, and new media as points of discussion.
- Offer presentations and trainings in Catholic leadership development such as servant leadership, faithful and prudent stewardship, collaborative ministry, etc.
- Provide formal mentorship opportunities and accompaniment to equip young adult Catholics for leadership positions.
- Create local peer support groups that meet on a regular basis.
- Provide leadership development for roles in parish and diocesan life at Catholic colleges and Newman Centers.
- Consider the practice of succession planning as applicable to service to the Church:
- Who are young adults that can be connected to your profession or vocation. Who can accompany you (just as much as you might accompany them)?
- Who can be engaged now so that the mission continues?
- Appoint young adults to leadership positions now. Can they serve on a board or council? Can they be invited to an advisory meeting?
- Survey current formation programs, lay ecclesial ministry processes, etc. Determine what best practices exist in those fields. Consider how best to adapt them to serve young adults.
- Continue to invest in research on young adult Catholic engagement. Examples include the Young Catholic America study by Christian Smith and the Going, Going, Gone study by St. Mary’s Press.
Resources and Best Practices
- Vatican’s Synod Process on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment Preparation Process & Pre-Synodal Document & Post-Synodal Exhortation “Christus Vivit.” The synodal process that led up to and followed the 2018 Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment included insights from youth and young adults for the Church, and ways forward for the pastoral care and co-responsible engagement of young people of all cultures and creeds.
- Voices of Synod 2018: Building Relationships with Young Adults. A brief video noting the need for older Catholics to build relationships with young adults.
- V Encuentro’s Young Adult Reports. Information about the four year process on Hispanic/Latino ministry taken by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’. The initiative involved 142,000 people at the parish level, 144 diocesan gatherings, and a national gathering with 3,470 delegates, and resulted in recommendations across ten priority areas to advance the Church’s ministry among Hispanics/Latinos in the U.S.
- National Dialogue on Catholic Pastoral Ministry with Youth and Young Adults & Additional Resources for Hosting a Conversation with Young Adults. A multi-year collaborative process, from 2017 to 2020, involving the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops and several national organizations that connect the Church’s ministries with young people and mobilize the Church towards action.
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Webinar Series on Engaging Young Adults. The USCCB Youth and Young Adult Ministries office and the National Advisory Team on Young Adult Ministry host and collaborate on a series of webinars that unpack “Christus Vivit” and give best practices for the pastoral care and evangelization of young adults.
- Saint Mary’s Press’ “Going, Going, Gone: The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics, Research, Video, and Integration Guide. A report, integration guide, and accompanying resources with the latest research on why young Catholics disaffiliate.
- ESTEEM’s Approach to Leadership Engagement. An approach to leadership development on college campuses that prepares young Catholics for leadership in parishes or dioceses after graduation.
- Catholic Campus Ministry Association’s “Mastermind Groups.” A cohort approach to help Catholic campus ministers with leadership development via group coaching.
- Diocese of San Diego’s Synod Process to Engage Young Adults. An example of a diocesan synod process specifically aimed at listening to and responding to the needs of young adult Catholics.
- Catholic Apostolate Center’s “Art of Accompaniment” & Apostles on Mission The “Art of Accompaniment” contains theological and practical elements to accompaniment as an approach for ministry, including with young adult Catholics. Apostles on Mission is a practical program that pairs young adults with a mentor, helps them discern their gifts, and empowers them to put together a personal ministry project.
- Young Catholic Professionals’ Approach to Leadership Engagement. An approach to engaging young adult Catholics in professional leadership development via local groups and mentoring.
- Growing Young. Fuller Seminary targeted churches that were engaging young people so well that the church communities were getting younger.