Young adults advanced on using technology to keep up spiritually

April 28, 2020

HOUSTON — Young adults, already handy with computer apps and using technology in everyday life, have kept up with prayer life and spiritual exercises online with the Archdiocese’s Young Adult and Campus Ministry reaching even beyond the Galveston-Houston area.

After having to cancel the YACM live conference because of the coronavirus, more young adults actually joined in the conference via online, said YACM Director Gabriela Karaszewski.

“Archdiocesan Young Adult Day was a smashing success. We had 650 registered online while live we only had 350,” she said.

The Young Adult Day was bilingual with six presentations — three in English and three in Spanish. Prayer and even stretching exercises in between presentations kept the participants active. Out of the 650 participating, three percent were from other parts of the world, another 15% were from around the United States, and the remainder were from across Texas and the Houston area, she said.

“We were able to reach corners we never thought we would. And now they are following us in other offerings,” Karaszewski said. “It was amazing because it was a way to launch them into the world of ministry via webinar. I personally feel God designed it that way even before we were quarantined.”

From that outreach, nightly prayers are now being done by young adults with and for other young adults.

“I noticed a young adult always signed on promptly every night. So I asked him what parish he was with, and he said he was an Army young adult stationed in Kentucky! It was humbling to hear,” she said.

Every night at 9 p.m., YACM organizes prayer for 15 minutes for young adults in English and Spanish and have had a great response, she said.

“For example, the students from the University of Houston sang live for one hour from their homes and dorms on Holy Thursday,” Karaszewski said. “We had Liturgy of the hours led by a University of St. Thomas campus minister.

“And great Spanish spiritual directors and young adults from different parishes are giving meditations. Also, young adults have led the Divine Mercy and Rosary. It has been a great team effort,” she said.

YACM is also planning an online Ignatian Spirituality Retreat in early May for six hours online as well as a Spanish formation program for five Mondays in a row for Hispanic young adult leaders, she said.

In reference to university campuses, ministers there have remained busy as well, even with many students leaving the campuses because of classes going online and returning home to quarantine in place.

Father Charles Johnson, O.P., known by students as Father Charlie at the University of Houston’s main campus, said there remained a core group of about 10 active students still living on campus even as recent as mid-April, but about 500 quarantined students are staying in touch via various computer apps.

“This has been a challenge for us since we had to close the Catholic Newman Center on campus across from the Rec Center on Calhoun. But our virtual community continues to grow via Zoom with our administrative staff, Skype, Google hangouts and other groups for our students,” said Father Johnson.

“There is still a desire and need for community. Before we pray the Rosary for the day, we use the first 10 minutes just to check in with how everyone is doing. We also have video platforms, including Tuesday nights when we do adoration and veneration at the Holy Rosary church chapel, where I’m based,” he said.

For students to join in, a calendar list of events is available at

“Those preparing for graduation, my heart goes out to them most. Trying to finish up their degrees with online classes and not the usual support system, plus the worry of getting a job, these graduates are dealing with sadness. So we’re hoping to celebrate with a Graduating Seniors Mass alternative for the first Sunday in May,” Father Johnson said.

At Rice University campus, Father Ray Cook, O.M.I., said, “There are still international students living on campus and some off-campus students who remained here even though classes are online. But we have been continuing with ministry.”

In addition to livestreaming Mass as many other churches are doing, Father Cook is also offering “Drive-Through” confessions in the alleyway outside the Rice chapel at noon on Wednesdays.

“We have a lot of one-on-one calls with folks who are having deep anxiety and faith struggles. The Catholic Student Leader Elections have just finished, and we are starting our retreat planning and alternate Spring Break planning after Finals are over,” Father Cook said.

The students are also reaching out through the Rice group service, the GroupMe apps along with phone calls and texts.

For Rice University Catholic Student Center calendar listing and event information, log onto †