St. Monica Parish, Mishawaka, is already a vibrant community for members of all ages. But, spurred by a grant from Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology, the parish is taking a fresh look at the needs, interests and contributions of its young adults.
Shortly before their wedding, Joshua and Mary Flynt were church-hopping in search of a community where they could sink roots and “find help making the tough decisions.” After a Sunday Mass at St. Monica, they looked at each other and said, “I think we’ve found our parish!” They loved the beautiful, traditional music and found the teaching in the homily straightforward. Many people also reached out to welcome them.
Before long Mary found herself in a diverse group of young adults whom Father Jacob Meyer had called together for some brainstorming, because St. Monica is one of 16 American parishes selected for a four-year-long Young Adult Initiative. Representatives from those 16 parishes will meet periodically to share “innovative strategies to better meet the spiritual needs of the young adults in their parishes.” The initiative is funded by a grant from Saint Meinrad. As these pioneers evaluate what is and isn’t working, all parishes can learn from their efforts.
“This is your group,” Father Meyer told the St. Monica young adults at the brainstorming meeting. Then he left so that they could discuss their own ideas. “They are such a blessing to me,” Father Jacob exclaimed. “They are low-maintenance and just plain fun.”
Mary recalled that the members of this core group were brutally honest with each other in responding to the question, “What would you rearrange your schedule for?” They learned that many of them went out for brunch after Mass, so it made sense to have a “party at Padre’s” the first Sunday of every month. During the gatherings, there is a short presentation on a saint or spiritual topic so that they can grow together and not simply socialize.
On Aug. 11, 30 of the young adults made a pilgrimage to Chicago that included tours of ethnic parishes and a nice meal at a Brazilian barbecue.
Bowling and playing on the same softball team have also proven easy ways to build community.
Diocesan Director for Young Adult Ministry Sean Allen has been a wonderful resource for the group. However, this new initiative is deliberately parish-based rather than regional. Father Meyer said St. Monica was a logical choice to participate in the Saint Meinrad initiative because the parish is so welcoming, not “frozen in the past, how ‘we’ve always done it.’”
Rather than forming an exclusive group, the young adults at St. Monica want to be part of the broader parish community.
On July 4, they joined other parishioners on the rectory lawn to watch city fireworks. They staffed some of the stations at the parish picnic and will be involved in Octoberfest.
Father Meyer urges every parish activity and committee to take a fresh look at how to accommodate and incorporate millennials. Among the questions they should ask themselves, he said, are 1. How do young adults learn about activities that might interest them? 2. What will intrigue them enough to give something a try? 3. How do vocabulary and methodology need to be updated?
For example, he added, what can young adults — who tend to neither carry cash nor write checks — do when the collection basket is passed? An app on their smart phones might be a better way for them to contribute.
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