By Rose O'Connor | Correspondent
Almost 50 faithful who could be the faces of young adult leadership in the Diocese gathered Aug. 27 in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral Parish, Freehold, for an evening of faith sharing and fellowship.
Those in attendance were invited by their pastors from around the Diocese to attend Mass in the Co-Cathedral and a barbecue and information session afterward sponsored by the diocesan Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.
Photo Gallery: Young adult leader barbecue in Freehold
The purpose of the evening was to bring together potential faith leaders to discuss the possibility of their participation in a diocesan Young Adult Leadership Formation program beginning later this month.
“We pray the gifts of the Holy Spirit will come upon you and that you are open to receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” Father Martin O’Reilly, diocesan chaplain of youth ministry, said in his homily.
Father O’Reilly, who serves as parochial vicar in St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, Spring Lake, also reflected on the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus asks the question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
“What Jesus wanted to know is, ‘What do I mean to you?’” he asked. “Peter was far from perfect. But he was devout and faithful, and Jesus looked at what was in his heart.”
He addressed those who gathered to celebrate the Eucharist together. “Let us not be afraid to answer God’s call, and let us not doubt that we will be able to face anything.”
Meet and Greet
Following Mass, those in attendance assembled in the rectory, where Dan Waddington, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, served as the grill master.
In between flipping hot dogs and hamburgers, he shared the vision for the evening.
“Many of these people are involved in young adult ministry or are looking forward to becoming more involved in this ministry,” he said. “This is an opportunity to form a shared vision and an invitation to formation. We’re hoping to grow these groups in the parish or cohorts and then build upon this into regional meetings.”
Colleen Owens and Nick Guarda, both from St. James Parish, Red Bank, wanted to meet like-minded faithful in the Diocese and had the opportunity to do so as they shared laughs and stories with Bridget Horgan from Sacred Heart Parish, Riverton.
“There’s not a whole lot of opportunities for young adults to connect,” Horgan said, adding that she had attempted to start a ministry for millennials in her own parish.
Katie Glen, an assistant youth minister who participates in a young adult Bible study in St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, said she is hoping to grow the Bible study into a larger group.
Added Felicia Massari, who runs the St. Mary Parish Bible study with her daughter, said, “I am open to any ideas that I can bring to young adult ministry,” she said.
Called to Leadership
Following dinner, Cristina Imparato, diocesan coordinator of Young Adult Ministry, shared a personal testimony and discussed what led her to becoming involved in young adult ministries.
“I am privileged to be here with you and encourage you and support you,” she said earnestly.
That sense of shared ministry was emphasized by Waddington.
After the young adults shared their own faith journeys and reflected on the idea, “What brings you closer to God?” Waddington illustrated the common themes of the evening: “One, we are called to share our faith, and second that the strength of the community allows us to share our faith,” he said.
He then shared information on the three-month Young Adult Formation program that will be held in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral Parish beginning Sept. 28. As indicated on information distributed to guests, the program is designed to “assist you in your own faith journey, to help you learn more about the faith, to give you concrete ways in how to live it out and how to evangelize to other young adults in the community.”
“The goal of the formation program is to lead like Jesus; he is our inspiration; a humble servant and teacher. We want to walk with you, encouraging you and supporting you along the way,” Waddington said. “We want to help you so that you feel as though you are not alone in this.”
“We hope you prayerfully consider the invitation. The young adults in our Diocese are often an untapped resource – a group that is for a relationship with God,” he said.
Added Imparato, “We want to encourage you; please think about it.”
Before the group retired for the evening, Father O’Reilly spoke about the next World Youth Day, which will take place in 2019 in Panama.
“We are hoping you become our ambassadors and encourage other youth and young adults to travel to World Youth Day,” he shared. “We are hoping to go as pilgrims and hoping to experience everything God wants us to experience.”
As darkness fell and the evening came to a close, several of those assembled expressed interest in becoming a young adult group leader in the formation program.
Matt Santucci, coordinator of faith formation/youth and young adult minister in St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, said, “The evening was solid. It’s good to start the conversation and to have an open discussion.”
Kenny Falls from St. Mary Parish, Middletown, agreed.
“It’s good to see something happening, to see something starting,” he said of the formation program.
Msgr. Sam Sirianni, pastor of the Co-Cathedral Parish who was present the entire evening, said he was pleased to see the formation program beginning and was happy to offer St. Robert Bellarmine as the home for the meetings.
“All ages are important to the Church. It’s important to reach out to young adults who are seeking meaning in their lives, and meaning should be rooted in Jesus,” he said.
Kate Ferguson of St. Robert Bellarmine is looking forward to beginning the formation program.
“I have been hoping to become involved in young adult ministry. In my early 20s, I was finding myself, searching for my way, and I needed to find a home,” she said. “God opened so many doors for me. There are so many who are searching for Christ’s love and don’t know how to find it. I want to help bring his message to them and help them as I was helped.”
For more information on the Young Adult Leadership Formation program, contact ministry assistant Jerry Wutkowski at email@example.com.