By Karen Clifford
SOUTH BEND — Sean Allen, a diocesan young adult minister in the South Bend area, clarifies the mission of young adult ministry. “Young adult ministry is targeted for a specific age range and builds community among this peer group. We are not about forming a group, we are about Christian formation.”
Allen and his young adult minister counterpart in Fort Wayne, Allison Sturm, work with young adults in their late teens, 20s and 30s. It is a community made up of single, married (with or without children), divorced or widowed young adults. This community, Allen stresses, seeks to learn more about the Catholic faith and also is strengthened by serving others, praying, worshiping and socializing together.
Both Allen and Sturm were drawn to the young adult ministry because of their faith backgrounds. Allen graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a master of divinity degree this past May. Within the three-year program Allen says, “You learn how to lead prayer, use pastoral counseling skills, and get a background for certain types of ministry within the church.”
Sturm attended Catholic parochial schools and grew up with a strong love of the faith. “While my theological background may be informal, above all things I have a great love of the church, a strong desire to serve God and a lifetime of spiritual experience that have served to strengthen my faith and prompt me into my current role,” she says.
Mary Glowaski, director of the Office of Campus and Young Adult Ministry, explains why this ministry is so important to the church. “Young adults have a great deal to teach us as church. They possess an energy and hopefulness that sustains us and challenges us to be more responsive and creative in how we seek ways of growing our relationship with one another and with God as we discern God’s will for our lives no matter what our age.”
Because of the transient nature of young adults, Glowaski notes that the diocesan Facebook site and Web page, along with the traditional communication of bulletin announcements and Today’s Catholic newspaper, are essential tools in getting the word out about young adult ministry events and opportunities.
Both Sturm and Allen note the challenges of formation of this community. Sturm says while her family, friends and coworkers embraced her Catholic faith when she was a young adult, she knows that others do not always have this consistent influence and support. “I believe we must have a ministry that reaches out with faith-based groups to help young adults incorporate their faith in all aspects of their life so that they can use all of their positive energy to benefit themselves and others.”
Allen stresses that his role is as much a facilitator as it is a leader of the young adults. “This is not only the church serving young adults, it is a ministry working with young adults and where young adults are running the ministry. My work as a young adult minister requires empowering and bringing together leaders of their peer community.”
One of the young adult programs in South Bend and Fort Wayne this fall is the Theology on Tap series. “It started in Chicago with the idea of engaging young adults in their 20s and 30s. It has name recognition because it is in a lot of dioceses around the country. The original idea was to go where the young adults are,” says Allen.
The theme for the South Bend Theology on Tap series this fall is service. Allen emphasizes that service is faith in action. “Rather than something merely to be believed, faith is something to be lived,” says Allen. “Theology on Tap brings Catholic speakers in and so it involves both community and learning about your faith.”
There are five consecutive Tuesday night sessions in the South Bend series. The remaining two speakers are Lisa Anderson on “Discovering your Giftedness” on Oct. 20, and Father Michael Heintz on “Living the Mass” on Oct. 27. A HOLYween party will be held on Nov. 3, with trivia and treats (costumes optional). All events are held at 6:30 p.m. at the Backstage Grill, 222 S. Michigan St., in South Bend.
In Fort Wayne, the theme of the church reaching out to young adults, will be highlighted in the Theology on Tap series. The weekly series begins on Oct. 22 with Father Tim Wrozek from St. Joseph Parish in Fort Wayne. The two remaining speakers are Cindy Black, director of the diocesan Office of Youth Ministry on Nov. 5 and Father Larry Kramer from St. Paul of the Cross, Columbia City, on Nov. 19. The events will be held at 7 p.m. at Henry’s Restaurant, 536 W. Main St., in Fort Wayne.
Glowaski underscores the importance of all who contribute to the Young Adult ministry in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. “The new additions to our staff of Sean Allen and Allison Sturm working with the wisdom and experience of Maria Pirrie and Mike Gibson have provided us with a unique and very effective blend of vision and experience as we continue to grow this very important ministry.”
She concludes, “Our bishop has shown a great deal of leadership and dedication to the young adult ministry. He is very clear that the Catholic Young Adult Ministry staff be equally as dedicated and responsive to the needs and the abundant gifts of the young adult Catholics throughout our diocese.”
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