The Catholic Partnership Summit Part 5: Young Adult Catholics at the Leadership Table

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.


Leadership Development:

  • 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?


Ongoing Research:

  • 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


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