COLUMBIA—Young adults often feel they are an overlooked demographic in the church. With the goal of changing that misconception and making their voices heard, some people ages 18-35 from around South Carolina got together in Columbia recently.
The first diocesan Young Adult Rally, “Walk By Faith,” drew about 70 men and women to St. Peter Church in Columbia. It was organized by the Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry.
Valerie Soop, associate director of young adult ministry, said the theme was in response to Pope Benedict XVI declaring the Year of Faith that began on Oct. 11. The goal of the event was to help young adults meet and network with each other, realize the important role they can play in the life of the church, and hopefully energize them to become more involved with their faith.
“It’s a big deal that the Vicar of Christ is calling the faithful to live out their faith more fully,” Soop said. “We need to trust in God, and pray about the fact that we are being called to be part of the new evangelization.”
Participants listened to guest speakers, spent time in fellowship and attended a Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone.
Musician, worship leader and speaker Jackie Francois started the day with sacred music and a talk, based on her personal conversion story, about how simply having faith can transform a person’s entire life.
Francois said she didn’t really embrace the fullness of her faith until she was in college and started studying it so she could respond to often hostile questions from other students.
“I learned about what can happen when you fall in love with God,” Francois said. “We need to learn to trust that God is a generous father. When you trust in Him with a child-like trust, he is so generous. If you’re in the right relationship or vocation or place in your life, you will know it because God will give you peace. Learn to pray with faith and you can move mountains.”
Francois said that young adults can overcome the difficulties and uncertainties of being single, finding a spouse or dealing with the career world if they rely completely on God, study the teachings of the church they are uncertain or conflicted about, regularly read Scripture pray and attend daily Mass.
Father Jeffrey F. Kirby, vicar of vocations, offered reflections on the history of the church from World War II to current time, and said the goals of Vatican II have not been realized because too many people have grown accustomed to a culture that promotes secularism and self-gratification.
“The rallying cry of the Second Vatican Council was that we are Christians who live the Paschal Mystery, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we need to live out that mystery every day in the world,” he said. “All the problems of the church today are because of selfishness … selfishness in the bedroom, the hospital room, the wallet or the ballot box. We want to fragment our faith, and we do that because we don’t have proper formation.”
Father Kirby challenged participants to realize that as Christians, they are nothing without God, and to continue to grow and learn about the faith so they can work to bring about the new evangelization that the pope hopes to continue through the year.
Bishop Guglielmone offered reflections on the Second Vatican Council and the Year of Faith. He said Blessed John XXIII wanted to promote the church as an agent of peace and hope in the world when he called for Vatican II, and today’s young adults have a role in showing that side of the church to a world bathed in negativity and pain.
“John spoke of the church offering the ‘medicine of mercy’ rather than that of severity,” he said. “He believed we need to demonstrate the validity of the church’s teachings to the world, rather than offer condemnation of those who would disagree with us.”
Bishop Guglielmone said the Year of Faith offers a chance for individual Catholics to learn more about their religion and help the rest of the world overcome fear and isolation.
“Pope Benedict says that the burden of action falls on each of us as believers,” he said.
Several people who attended the rally said it was a good first step to help them find their voice as people of faith and pursue a life of personal conversion.
“I definitely learned that I need to become a holier person,” said Christopher Florian, 29, who attends Christ Our King Church in Mount Pleasant.
“I definitely want to learn how to deepen my faith, to grasp the intensity of the Eucharist, understand the different teachings of the church and learn how to understand God’s will for my life,” he said.