In the nine years I was director of young adult and campus ministry for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, I encountered a wide variety of young adult groups throughout the city. There were some that were earnest in their faith and enthusiastic in sharing it; I think especially of those young adults associated with Bayou Awakening (a retreat program I started in 2001), Cafe Catholica (a summer coffee house begun in 1999), Spirit and Truth (a prayer group), as well as parish groups who put prayer and study and sharing their faith first (including Christus at St. Cyril’s, LIFT at St. Michael’s, and the young adults of St. Vincent’s).
But there were a few that seemed to place other things first, whose calendars were filled with drinking events (“Pub Crawl” and “Thirsty Thursday”), even if those events happened to occur on a church feast or fast day. St. Anne’s Young Adults was one such group. I often got e-mails from members of that parish asking if there was something I could do, as when they had a “Pub Crawl” on a Friday night in Lent (that means hitting maybe a dozen bars, staying out till the bars shut down, presumably drinking so much that you are crawling at the end). I also got letters when they announced they were sponsoring a team in “AIDS Walk Houston,” an event coordinated in partnership with organizations such as Planned Parenthood whose teachings are antithetical to Catholic belief and practice. I tried to reach out to them, making simple suggestions–perhaps their “Pub Crawl” could be shifted to a Saturday night; perhaps they could instead volunteer with the AIDS Ministry run by Catholic Charities instead. I never got anywhere, despite the fact that other chancery personnel were scandalized, including bishops–all I got were indignant phone calls from the pastor of the church. (See also the blog of Tito, one of the faithful young adults).
I’m writing about this now because I heard an advertisement on the radio for this year’s AIDS Walk Houston, and I was curious whether St. Anne’s would be participating again. They are.
I had this dichotomy between faithful and worldly young adult groups in mind when I sent a final farewell letter to my young adult e-mail list on April 25:
Let my final words be those of St. Paul to the Philippians:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you
Keep your hearts and minds fixed on Jesus. Turn to him. Trust in him.
If you are a member of a young adult group that spends more time at bars (even on Friday nights in Lent!), turn it around-or find another where Jesus is first. If you are a member of a young adult group that volunteers to support events contrary to Christian teaching (such as the recent AIDS Walk Houston, sponsored by Planned Parenthood), turn it around-or find another where Jesus is put first. If you are in a parish where you find yourself butting your head against a wall, do what you can to turn it around-or go where you can see Jesus. If you are a member of a young adult group or a campus ministry that is turned in on itself, and doesn’t see the need to reach out, turn it around-or find another where the focus is upon sharing the good news with those who are suffering and struggling and questioning.
May God bless you all, now and forever.
I’d offer those same words to anyone who is struggling to be faithful in an environment where it is hard, in a church that condones unbiblical teachings and practices and instead of calling you to conversion encourages worldliness–perhaps it’s time for a change. Hear the words of Scripture: “come out from them and be separate, says the Lord” (2 Cor. 6:17); “Come out of her my people, that you be not partakers of her sins” (Revelation 18:4).