Café Catholica marks 20 years of young adult ministry

June 11, 2019

HOUSTON — A lot has changed in young adult ministry over the last two decades. 

Just ask Angie Pometto, associate director of the Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry. She’s in charge of coordinating the annual Café Catholica event, held on Mondays July 8 to 29, which marks its 20th anniversary this year. The theme for the year is “Ever Ancient, Ever New.”

Twenty years ago, the idea of a young adult ministry wasn’t really in people’s minds,” she said. “In the early 2000s, in my diocese, young adult ministry was rolled up under family life. But as people started staying single longer and waiting to start families, there was a need to address their spiritual needs. Society changed, and the Church changed along with it.”

Developing thriving young adult ministry programs designed to speak to the needs and spiritual growth of those ages 18 to 39 became more important. Now, in places like the Archdiocese, they’re a vibrant array of lectures, meet-ups, discussion groups and prayer sessions. And one of the most popular is the annual Café Catholica series.

It unfolds across four Mondays in July, and includes an evening of confession, Mass, dinner and a discussion — all of which provide an opportunity for both socializing and spiritual growth. 

This year’s lineup includes Patrick Rivera, director of young adult ministry for Diocese of San Diego, speaking on July 8 on “Give Me Crazy Love: Your Body and God’s Plans.” 

On July 15, Father Josh Johnson, a priest from the Diocese of Baton Rouge who is also known as “the rapping priest, speaks on “The Struggle is Real: Continual Conversion.” 

Then on July 22, Michelle Benzinger, a speaker and women’s advocate from Pensacola, Florida, will speak on “Beauty Ever Ancient, Ever New.”

And lastly, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, will close out the series on July 29, speaking on “Millennial Wisdom from the Church Fathers.” 

Pometto said the series is popular with young Catholics, with evenings regularly drawing between 700 and 900 people. She’s excited to see that trend continue this year, and is hoping young adults will be into some of the enhancements they have made. First is an app attendees can download. Part of the MyParish app available for Apple and Android platforms, it offers information about Café Catholica parking, session details, exhibitor information and additional prayers.

“It’s a great way to keep Café Catholica with you all through the week,” she said. “There’s also links to blogs and podcasts that young adults might like. I think it will inspire them and keep them spiritually fed.”

Pometto has also implemented a College Night this year, which will take place on July 15. Pometto sees college as a natural transition point in a young adult’s life, whether they are about to enter it, or just graduating. Attendees are encouraged to wear an item of clothing showcasing their university or alma mater, and she says rising college freshmen, current college students and recent college graduates are especially encouraged to attend.

“College Night promotes the idea that there is a welcoming environment for them during this transitional time, and offers a glimpse of what it can be like to be a young adult person of faith,” she said. “But what we really liked was that this allows young Catholics to meet each other in new ways.” 

Meeting each other is an important aspect to Pometto, who attended last year’s event before she was charged with producing this year’s. She’d noticed that many people came together with people they knew, or met friends at the events. But she wanted people to meet new folks and develop new friendships. She hopes College Night provides a natural ice breaker for doing so, as attendees will see people who might be their fellow students or alumni.

She’s also excited for the speaker lineup, which she said offers a glimpse at many facets of Catholic faith. 

“I heard Patrick [Rivera] in Florida and everything he said was spot on,” she said. “He really has his pulse on where young adults are and focuses on the beauty of the Church’s teachings on sexuality. Michelle Benzinger is part of a podcast called ‘Abiding Together,’ and the idea of beauty is important to her. What do we care about and what is beautiful in the Church? And, of course, Cardinal DiNardo. He’s talking about how the wisdom of the Church fathers applies today. He has such a love for them, and his discussion will help people rediscover their words.”

Pometto believes this year’s program will speak to young adults where they are, and help them follow a path to deeper spirituality. All of the programming is available through donations and sponsorships from individuals and through donations. 

“I’m grateful to our sponsors,” she said. “And I hope people will see that this is a place for everyone.”

No registration is needed to attend. Donations are accepted. For more, visit www.archgh.org/cafecatholica or call 713-741-8778. †