Young Adult gatherings become the place to be in Archdiocese

January 25, 2011

HOUSTON — More than ever before, young adult Catholics in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston now have ample opportunities to get involved in their parish community, discuss their faith and share in their spiritual life through various gatherings and functions — many sponsored by the Office of Young Adults and Campus Ministry.

"Good programs give young adults a way to connect with the Church as well as with one another," said Roberto Navarro, Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry director. "Besides fulfilling many of the needs expressed by young adults, gatherings like the ones going on in our Archdiocese give them the opportunity to meet and experience speakers from different backgrounds. They have the opportunity to meet priests and religious that can talk to them about their vocation and answer questions they might have."
Among the ongoing programs that continue to attract new participants with the support of pastors and young adults include Café Catholica, a summer lecture series that has been going on for 10 years, and Café Catholic Lite, a recently launched spinoff series.

Theology on Tap — a speaker series on the faith and contemporary issues affecting young adults, which is usually held in the relaxed setting of a pub — organized through the young adult community at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, and Christ in the City, formed one year ago at St. Michael Church in Houston, have also entered the scene with great success as word continues to spread.

Adore at the Catholic Charismatic Center and other Spanish language meetings for young adults draw hundreds of participants. 

"Each program in one way or another facilitates conversation with young adults about topics that are of interest to them," Navarro said. "It is extremely important to recognize that young adults are present in our parishes and they bring many gifts to our communities. We need to provide opportunities for welcoming, bridging and integrating this group into the large Catholic community."

As some of the future leaders of the Church, Navarro said it is important to invest the time and resources to reach young adults and "provide them with the tools necessary to be good leaders with sound theological and spiritual formation."

One such leader — Stephanie Rendon, a parishioner at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart — encourages all young adults to become active in the ministry. 

"I've made some really great friends who help me grow in my faith, who share my struggles as a young adult and encourage me to be the person God has called me to be," she said. "That's what we do for one another. We help build each other up in the faith and we have a great time doing it."

Rendon said the Church requires such activism within the young adult community and urges others to get on board. 

"[The young adult movement] needs you to show the love of Christ to others and the best way to do that is to belong to a community," she said. "There are so many young adult groups in Houston and if your parish doesn't have one, visit some of them, or better yet — start one yourself."

Rendon joined other young adult leaders in the local Church to form an advisory committee led by Navarro. They meet once a month to discuss upcoming events for young adult groups and other happenings in the Archdiocese.

"I think the various gatherings sponsored by this ministry are important to the young adult community because there really is something for everyone, whether you are interested in furthering your prayer life, learning more about Catholic teaching, fellowship with other Catholics, playing sports or a combination of all of them," she said. "Christ in the City, Café Catholica, Theology on Tap, and intramural sports leagues through St. Anne Church in Houston are all ways young Catholics can meet one another, network, develop friendships and serve the Church."
No matter an individual's faith background, "we are all learning and growing together as a community," Rendon said.

"We're different and diverse," she said. "Even if you feel that you are comfortable with where you are in your life, just imagine what you could really be."

Michael Newhouse said he was minimally involved with young adult activities over the years until he attended the 2008 Café Catholica and was impressed by its attendance — and potential.

"I remember the standing room only crowd of 500-plus [for guest speaker Daniel Cardinal DiNardo] and being struck by their hunger for Christ," said Newhouse, who volunteered the next year and eventually stepped up to head the summer series that now garners more than 1,500 in attendance for each event.

"[We had] more table exhibitors than ever before and received [more than] $22,000 in donations and gifts with some truly extraordinary support from St. Vincent de Paul parish, the hosting church, and the Knights of Columbus and others," Newhouse said. "There is amazing potential."
Café Catholica aside, Newhouse is just as excited about the other programs and gatherings associated with Archdiocesan young adults.
"I'm excited to see what fruit will come from these seeds," Newhouse said. "Growth in the Church is always a long-term prospect. The diversity of events is critical because of our huge geography, ethnic diversity, busy schedules and range of needs."

"Not everyone can or will make it to the Café Catholica dinner and talks in the summer. Others need a quick and quiet Mass at Holy Cross Chapel downtown or a kickball league at St. Anne … or a day of prayer at Villa de Matel. There is so much going on in our Archdiocese with great potential for so much more." †

Photo caption: The Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart Catholic Young Adults group, which was founded in February 2010, has four focus areas: prayer, social, education and service. One of the group's service 2010 projects was assisting a senior client of Catholic Charities with yard work.