COLLINGSWOOD — Surrounded by temptations and pressure from the secular world and their families and peers, they are searching for meaning, purpose and an identity. They seek intimate relationships, and community and belonging with like-minded individuals. They are committed to creating a more just, compassionate world through community service and outreach.
This is what the 20 young adults gathered here at Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s McLaughlin Hall May 16 want church leaders to know about them, as the local and international Catholic Church prepares for a gathering next year on the best practices to engage 20- and 30-somethings and create and foster passionate disciples of Christ.
Greg Coogan, diocesan director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry, noted that the desire for these voices is mutual. “Pope Francis, Bishop Sullivan and I want to hear, pray with, dialogue with and respond” to youth and young adults’ needs, he said.
In a letter to young people earlier this year, Pope Francis acknowledged their desire for a “more just and friendly society,” and called on them to share “your voice, your sensitivities, and your faith; even your doubts and criticism” with the church.
In the past few months, more than 600 youth and young adults have spoken up in high schools and youth groups throughout the diocese, and more than 1,400 have participated in the diocese’s online survey.
The spoken and recorded data from past, and future, listening sessions, and the online survey will be collected in a diocesan report in preparation for the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops next year, “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.”
Sarah Creel, 22, from Our Lady of Peace Parish in Williamstown, recently graduated with a psychology degree from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and is now back in South Jersey, figuring out her next steps.
“The evening was successful in “fostering fellowship, encouraging one another, and sharing our voices,” she said. “It’s a hard time now, trying to discern what’s next for me, but I’m sharing what I learned of my faith there, with others back here.”
Matt Danser, 28, lives in Moorestown, which is part of the Diocese of Trenton, but is a member of the Diocese of Camden’s Theology on Tap Core Team, committed to planning once-a-month gatherings for South Jersey’s young adults. “Tonight brought out people that normally wouldn’t come” to events, but wanted to make their voices known, he said. “The welcoming atmosphere made for some good, open dialogue.”