REFLECTION: On Friendship and Community

Kate and Fr. Corey in Rome

by Fr. Corey Bruns, parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Bowling Green, KY (a Young Adult Initiative partner parish)

Some six years ago, as a seminarian in Bowling Green, KY for a summer, I started a young adult group, which met on Thursdays. We’d meet at a local bar for pints and conversation – usually with prayer – but our focus was community and coming together to support one another in our faith and life.

That summer, Kate from Kansas was completing an internship in town and would join us for our Thursday gatherings. We had a blast and formed friendships that have lasted years and even continents. 

For the past week, I have been on a pilgrimage to Rome with a small group, and I have been praying particularly for our Young Adult Ministry with BGCatholics in Bowling Green. While in Rome, I was able to celebrate Mass in the Clementine Chapel at Saint Peter’s Basilica (the altar connected to the tomb of St. Peter in the crypt church), as well as visit and pray at the tombs of so many faithful saints and heavenly friends.

While connecting anew with heavenly friends whom I have begged intercession from for years, and at times being moved to tears as I knelt in the holy places of their tombs and martyrdom (thanks JPII, St. Cecilia and St. Francis of Assisi), I was also able to connect with earthly friends striving for holiness and living now in the Eternal City. 

Kate from Kansas is now a member of the Apostles of the Interior Life and is completing her final years of formation and study with the community in Rome. We met up for coffee and conversation on Sunday afternoon and picked up where our Thursday pints had left off. 

Kate shared with me how crucial that summer of community and pints and laughter was for her in helping her hear the invitation of the Lord to consecrated life. God spoke to her that summer, and she opened her heart to a life of deeper faith, love and prayer. 

I was struck while visiting the tomb of my patron, St. Francis of Assisi, of the beauty of his being surrounded by the tombs of his brothers (literally in a circle around his tomb in the crypt chapel). Even in death, he is surrounded by his first friends to join him in the Order of Friars Minor, who encouraged him, built him up, loved and supported him by their prayer and friendship on the road to heaven. 

Kate’s story also stresses for us the importance and value of our ability to create community for young adults in the Church in a world that stresses individualism. Without community and friendship, without the support, love, and prayers of peers, the road to heaven can be lonely and arduous. But with friends, that road becomes that much sweeter. 

Please keep Kate in your prayers as she finishes these last few years of formation and conforms her life more to the Lord as his consecrated bride. 

 

Saint Meinrad alumnus Fr. Corey Bruns is the parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Bowling Green, KY. His parish is a current partner parish in the Young Adult Initiative.

BLOG: Who Do You Work For?

by Cassie Schutzer, Director of the Young Adult Initiative

When I first became a young adult minister in 2019, I would get an anxiety pit in my stomach before every single event.

My stages of stress were like clockwork:

  1. Worry that no one would show up.
  2. Worry that everyone would show up and we would run out of food.
  3. Run to the store to buy more food. And we need decorations too, right?
  4. Arrive too early to set up, just to stress in a new location.
  5. Jot down some talking points that I would never actually use.
  6. Question all my life and career choices that led me to this moment.
  7. Make it through the event on adrenaline just to find out that all my fears were unfounded.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

For about a year, this cycle happened so regularly that it became almost familiar to me. Ministry became synonymous with anxiety, which led me to question whether I had discerned my vocation correctly.

Thankfully, I received the peace that I needed when God put a question on my heart: “Who do you work for?”

I realized that I had been trying to do everything on my own, under my own power. I was trying to create perfect programs instead of simply offering space for conversation and encounter. I was trying to avoid awkward silences and uncomfortable situations instead of trusting that young adults — who are adults — can manage their own interactions with each other. I was trying to compete with other events in the lives of young adults rather than asking them what they needed from the parish.

I was an events planner, not a minister.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul says:

For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;
it is not from works, so no one may boast.
For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works
that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.

This is not from you. This is not from you. This is not from you.

Paul reminds us who we are and where we fit into the story. It was God who chose us, not the other way around. It is God who equips us for His service, not we who prove our qualifications to Him. It is God who saves us, not we who save the Church or each other. It us under His power that we act, not our own. And when we are present to one another, it is His love, His presence that we reflect.

This doesn’t take away our importance — not at all! By our baptism, we have been called as disciples and each of us — whether we are paid ministers or not — are essential in the work of the Kingdom. We just always have to remember who we work for.

So if you are a minister who feels the burden of perfection or the stress of putting on another event, take a deep breath. The more we can release our grip and allow God to work, the more we can accomplish under His power.

REFLECTIONS FROM OUR PARTNER PARISHES: Where did you see God?

Leaders from our ten partner parishes were asked, “Where did you see God at work in your life this month?”
Here are their testimonies:

“I have seen God at work in our current Alpha. This is the youngest Alpha that we have ever had. We had 20 people under the age of 25 sign up and another 20 more under the age of 35. It is super amazing to see so many young adult open to exploring faith.”

“On a personal note, I went to Chicago for a business conference for a week. All I was doing was helping a friend run it and it had nothing to do with the faith, however, the Lord showed up. In the middle of my small group Zoom meeting one night for my MA course, we brainstormed on the scripture from Luke that talks about how every minute of every day is supposed to be in prayer. We discussed what that might look like, and it came out that most of my small group doesn’t pray at all. This floored me but also went in a direction I had not anticipated. God convicted my own heart and prayer life and broke me in that moment. Yes I pray in the morning, evening, before meals, in adoration, at Mass, randomly throughout the day, but He convicted me as to the quality of my prayer life, specifically the listening component. After our Zoom call, I sat for an hour looking at the city of Chicago and weeping. I don’t weep. Ever. The Lord allowed me to draw close to Him without any words or seemingly any signs and yet I hadn’t felt this close to Him in a long time. I went to Chicago for a business meeting and I encountered the Living God.”

“I see God in my family, especially my wife who works at home so selflessly and my daughter who is developmentally delayed but has made so much progress in the past few weeks that her teachers are experimenting with reducing her accommodations.”

“I see God in so many ways…. in the ministries forming… in the transformations I am witnessing… and in the beautiful way the Holy Spirit takes hold of situations and empowers change.”

“This is a personal and professional testimony. My youngest son was baptized this month! It is such a wonderful thing to see my entire family (both by blood and by faith) witness such a beautiful and important moment in my son’s life. This moment was truly full of grace as I watch my son be born into God’s family and in doing so, gain such a wonderful faith community that has meant so much to me. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for my little one and to watch this wonderful community continue to surround him with faith and love and support as he grows.”

“I see God in how He has placed me where He needs me in conversations with parishioners every weekend.”

“Personally, God had blessed me and my family with a happy and healthy baby! As well as a job that I can work from home to bring in some income. With ministry, God has brought so many new faces to our group! So happy to see our ministry growing this year!”

“I see God in lots of ways, but pertinent to the Young Adult Initiative, engagement and accompaniment with these young adults. I’ve just come from a funeral for a stillborn baby. And speaking directly to the mom and dad of this little baby reminds me of the hunger so many people have that faith assists in filling.”

“God has been at work through the people around me. It has been a very rough month personally — registering over 400 students for our K-12 programs, bringing on a new Director of Religious Education, then a death in my family alongside contracting COVID for the 2nd time. With all of this, my support system of wonderful volunteers, staff members, friends and family have been prayer warriors and amazing hands and feet on the ground. Thank you Lord for those you have intentionally put around me!”

“God has been so faithful during this busy season in my life — I am working multiple jobs, and my PhD dissertation was due to my thesis committee. At times, it was tempting to cut back on young adult events and commitments because my schedule got so busy. However, when I took my concerns to God in prayer, I got a sense of peace and heard his voice saying “trust me.” And just like the widow with Elijah who had just enough oil and flour to make bread during the long drought, God provided just enough time this month for me to complete all my work and dissertation deadlines without having to cut back on my ministry priorities.”

BLOG: Accompaniment

by Cassie Schutzer, director of the Young Adult Initiative

When I moved to Indiana in June, my closest friends from home sent me off with a bundle of letters with instructions for when to open each one.

Open when…you’re finished unpacking.
Open when…you are lonely.
Open when…you make a new friend.

And that was only a few of them.

When I opened this gift – the best gift I had ever received – I was overwhelmed with gratitude because it was more than just a stack of letters. This was a visible sign of my friends’ presence in the next season of my life, a season I would be navigating without them around me. These letters represented unknown future moments in which my friends would still be accompanying me.

Accompaniment.

This word is being used more often to describe how we minister to young adults. It’s the new “model,” inasmuch as we have a model these days. But what does it mean to accompany someone?

To accompany simply means to walk with. To be present. To receive. To love.

It sounds simple, perhaps even unremarkable, but true accompaniment is something that we all hunger for and its importance should never be discounted or underestimated. According to a 2020 study by Springtide Research Institute, young people are experiencing overwhelming levels of loneliness. 1 in 3 reported feeling completely alone much of the time. (And this was before Covid.)

The reason is simple: We are built for community, and we were never meant to live a life of faith on our own. We desire spaces where we are seen, welcomed, and known. We desire people in our lives who love us despite the qualities we deem unlovable. We desire a place to share our God-given gifts with others.

This kind of model does not happen overnight, and it takes a certain amount of patience and persistence to build a community where its members accompany one another. It takes a commitment on the part of every single person to encounter their neighbor, hear their story, share their own, and walk forward together in pursuit of a common goal. But imagine that kind of community. Don’t you think it’s worth the effort?

BLOG: An Invitation to Join the Journey

by Cassie Schutzer, director of the Young Adult Initiative

Hey, y’all! If you couldn’t tell by the greeting, I am a North Carolina girl born and bred. I attended the University of North Carolina (Go Heels) and spent seven years in a parish in Chapel Hill doing communications and young adult ministry. I am excited to be a part of Phase 2 of the Saint Meinrad Young Adult Initiative…in fact, I left my home, my church, my family, and my friends because I believe so much in the mission of this project and feel called to be here with you all.

In thinking back over my life, there are big decision moments that stand out: what college to attend, what major to declare, what job to apply for. Decisions like this can be paralyzing because there’s the pressure of choosing “correctly.” It felt like one wrong choice could lead to a lifetime of unhappiness. In order to avoid making decisions, I developed this strategy where I only gave myself one option: apply to only one college, choose a major that sounds interesting and stick with it, apply to one job after graduation. There wasn’t a lot of thought on my part; it had just never occurred to me that there was another way!

What this created in my faith life was an undercurrent of absolute trust. I simply walk through the next door that opened into a new season of my life.

What this also created was a complacency, a sense of comfort, and a lukewarm-ness to my life and my faith. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVED my life. I had a job that I genuinely enjoyed, a circle of supportive friends, and a community of faith who truly cared for me. I mean, who doesn’t like to be comfortable and happy? But I was coasting. I wasn’t growing in trust because I was too comfortable. I was taking my life — and my Lord — for granted.

In my prayer, I asked God for an opportunity to say “yes” to doing something for Him. I asked for an opportunity to move out of my comfort zone, to sacrifice for His glory and for the good of others. I didn’t expect such a clear or quick answer; it was only a few weeks later when I saw the posting for this position. (Take it from me — Be careful what you pray for. Seriously.) Fast forward a few months, and I am moving away from everything and everyone I know into an unknown future.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I think to truly know and understand a person, we need to listen to their story. We need to ask about how God is working in their life. We need to know what their hopes and dreams and challenges and struggles are. In this five-year journey of the Young Adult Initiative, we are truly on a journey together and I want you all to know me.

I’ll be posting regular blogs and reflections from my life, as well as personal testimonies and stories from our partner parishes. Each article title will indicate what type of post you’re reading, and I’ll include the name of the author so that you can become familiar with our companions on the journey.

I am equal parts humbled, excited, nervous, hopeful, and curious about what’s in store in the Saint Meinrad Young Adult Initiative. But most of all, I’m happy to share the road with all of you! Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you connect with something that I share, or if you simply want to share your own story.

Please keep us in prayer as we strive to live out our mission to accompany parishes as they minister with young adults.

NEWS: Saint Meinrad Hires New Young Adult Initiative Staff Members

Saint Meinrad has hired two new staff members for Phase 2 of the Young Adult Initiative.

Cassie Schutzer will serve as the project administrator, providing an overarching vision for the second phase of the project. Cassie has a background in young adult ministry and communications, and she spent the past seven years working for a parish in Chapel Hill, NC.

“I cannot wait to contribute to the good work of the Saint Meinrad Young Adult Initiative. I am constantly in awe of the vibrancy, authenticity, vulnerability, and holiness of the young Church. There is a deep desire to know Christ, a deep desire to belong. I am grateful for the opportunity to accompany parishes as they learn new ways to minister to their people.”

Johnny Sherfick will serve as the program manager for the Young Adult Initiative, responsible for administrative tasks and day-to-day operations at Saint Meinrad. Johnny has a background in teaching and has worked in various Catholic organizations over the years.

“I feel like I have always had a strong calling to not only be a part of, but also help create and facilitate the growth of a strong Catholic faith community. As a husband and father, I have a desire to help create a transformational community so that other young adults and families have a place to learn and grow in their faith.”

We are excited to welcome Cassie and Johnny to the Saint Meinrad staff! Please keep them in your prayers.

NEWS: Saint Meinrad Receives Grant to Continue the Young Adult Initiative

Saint Meinrad Archabbey has received a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to continue its outreach to young adult Catholics.

A grant of $1.25 million will support the second phase of Saint Meinrad’s Young Adult Initiative. The primary goal of this phase of the program is to support Catholic parishes and ministry leaders in reimagining their approaches to young adult outreach, accompaniment, and discipleship.

During the five-year grant period, Saint Meinrad plans to:

  • create a parish guide for ministry with young adults;
  • develop resources and offer workshops for bishops, priests, deacons, and laity from across the United States to inform them of the Phase 1 findings and promote usage of the parish guide; and
  • invite some of the parishes that Saint Meinrad worked with during Phase 1 to continue their young adult engagement efforts and become mentors to neighboring parishes.

“In this second phase of the Young Adult Initiative, Saint Meinrad wants to offer a concrete guide for forming a parish culture that is open and responsive to the needs of affiliated and unaffiliated young adults,” said Tammy Becht, interim director of Saint Meinrad’s Center for Youth and Young Adult Evangelization.

“We intend to provide Catholic leaders methods for parish accompaniment of young people so more parishes will realize increased engagement with young adults in their communities,” she said. “Parishes will be challenged to create a parish vision and plan that will engage young people. As this work progresses, we will share the results at workshops and conferences for ministry leaders.”

NEWS: Parishes chosen for Young Adult Initiative

Sixteen parishes have been chosen to participate in the Young Adult Initiative of Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, St. Meinrad, IN.

The program is funded by a $1.38 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to improve parish outreach to young adults and better engage them with the Catholic Church. Parishes were invited to apply for the program, and Saint Meinrad received 96 applications.

The parishes that will participate in the program for the next four years are:

  • Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, Knoxville, TN, Diocese of Knoxville
  • Christ the King Parish, Ferdinand, IN, Diocese of Evansville
  • Church of the Holy Angels Parish, Indianapolis, IN, Archdiocese of Indianapolis
  • Holy Family Parish, Brentwood, TN, Diocese of Nashville
  • Holy Spirit Parish, Bowling Green, KY, Diocese of Owensboro
  • Immaculate Conception Parish, La Grange, KY, Archdiocese of Louisville
  • Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish, Lexington, KY, Diocese of Lexington
  • Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, Jeffersonville, IN, Archdiocese of Indianapolis
  • Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, New Albany, IN, Archdiocese of Indianapolis
  • St. Alphonsus Liguori Parish, Zionsville, IN, Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana
  • St. Augustine Parish, Lebanon, KY, Archdiocese of Louisville
  • St. Bartholomew Parish, Columbus, IN, Archdiocese of Indianapolis
  • St. Cecilia Parish, Cincinnati, OH, Archdiocese of Cincinnati
  • St. Clare of Assisi Parish, O’Fallon, IL, Diocese of Belleville
  • St. John the Evangelist Parish, St. John, IN, Diocese of Gary
  • St. Monica Parish, Mishawaka, IN, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend

The parishes represent five states and 13 dioceses. Parishes range in size from 259 households to 2,578 households.

“We went through a lengthy but thorough selection process and prayerful discernment to find a wide variety of parish settings and situations,” said Michal Horace, director of the Young Adult Initiative. “The partner parishes include small, mid-size and large parishes, as well as rural, urban and suburban parishes. Many of the partner parishes have multicultural congregations.”

In partnership with Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, parishes will explore the demographics of their communities, learn more about today’s young adults (ages 23-29), and develop innovative strategies to better meet the spiritual needs of the young adults in their parish.

“The overwhelming response we received to our call for applications is proof that the Church is paying attention to the needs of young adults,” said Tammy Becht, director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Formation at Saint Meinrad. “I think that outreach and ministry to the young Church is going through a time of rediscovery and redefinition. We’re honored to be part of the New Evangelization by creating dialogue and an atmosphere that focuses on the young Church with these 16 congregations.”

NEWS: Applications now open for Young Adult Initiative

Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, St. Meinrad, IN, has received a $1.38 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to begin an initiative intended to improve parish outreach to young adults and better engage them with the Catholic Church.

Applications are now being accepted for parishes interested in improving their engagement with young adults ages 23-29. By partnering with Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, parishes will explore the demographics of their communities, learn more about today’s young adults, and develop innovative strategies to better meet the spiritual needs of the young adults in their parish.

Twelve to 15 parishes will be selected to participate in the program. Saint Meinrad will then help these parishes to create a specific plan to engage young adults. Through outreach into the local community, hosting events that include prayer, worship and fellowship, the program will help parishes to form young adults in discipleship by creating service and study opportunities.

To apply for the program, visit the online application at: http://www.saintmeinrad.edu/youth/young-adult-initiative/. Because the program will involve Saint Meinrad staff visiting parishes and parish staff visiting Saint Meinrad, the program is open to parishes in these dioceses:

Illinois: Archdiocese of Chicago, Diocese of Belleville, Diocese of Joliet, Diocese of Peoria, Diocese of Springfield in Illinois

Indiana: Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Diocese of Evansville, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Diocese of Gary, Diocese of Lafayette

Kentucky: Archdiocese of Louisville, Diocese of Covington, Diocese of Lexington, Diocese of Owensboro

Missouri: Archdiocese of Saint Louis, Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau (eastern half only)

Ohio: Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Diocese of Columbus (western half only)

Tennessee: Diocese of Knoxville, Diocese of Memphis, Diocese of Nashville

Application deadline is Friday, October 6.

NEWS: Michal Horace Hired to Lead Young Adult Initiative at Saint Meinrad

Michal Horace of Portland, OR, has joined the staff of Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, St. Meinrad, IN. Michal is the director of a new program called the Young Adult Initiative.

In December, Saint Meinrad was awarded a $1.38 million grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. to begin an initiative intended to improve parish outreach to young adults and better engage them with the Catholic Church. The Lilly Endowment is based in Indianapolis and awarded this grant as part of a $19 million ecumenical project involving 12 Christian organizations.

During the initial phase of the five-year project, a group of parishes will be selected to collaborate with and to identify and engage young adults (ages 23-29) in parish life.

Most recently, Horace served as director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Portland. From 1997 until 2001, he served as associate director, and then director, of the Office of Youth Ministry at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, IL. He also worked for Assumption Catholic Church in St. Louis as coordinator of youth ministry.

Other experience in youth ministry includes serving as chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ World Youth Day-Krakow Advisory Committee, as a member of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry Board of Directors, and as a board member of Catholic Youth Foundation-USA.

Horace received a master’s degree in pastoral ministry from the University of Portland. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from Saint Louis University.