Story and photos by Gabriella Munoz Special to the Herald
On July 25, the diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry held an island-wide forum for young adult ministry leaders at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Pearl City.
It was a large turnout. Thirty-eight representatives from 18 parishes across Oahu attended the discussion that stretched three hours into the night. To some, the number of participants was surprising.
“I always think, ‘Where are the young adults in the church?’” said Nicole Santos, a leader for the young adult ministry at Our Lady of Good Counsel. “It was so awesome to see the turnout. There are all these people that we don’t know of, and it’s good to put a face to a ministry.”
Pablo Rodriguez from St. John Vianney Parish in Kailua said, “It was refreshing to see a lot of young adults, literally young adults, that are so passionate and engaged on this quest.”
The evening began with icebreakers and prayer, but the majority of the night was spent in a large group discussion. Four groups were given four different questions to discuss and share as a part of the large group discussion. The questions pushed participants to flesh out the details of this complex age group of 18- to 39-year-olds, to better understand who it is they are serving.
What are the most important concerns of young adults? What are young adults looking for in the church? What are the talents, gifts and energy young adults bring to the church?
The question that sparked the most comments was: How can their parish and campus communities be more responsible with its ministry?
The participants concluded the main needs of this age group to be training for small groups, budget and spaces for ministry, integration into parish life, and a “consistent message” that didn’t “water down” the faith. Across the board, they agreed that young adult ministry needed support from the parish community in order to be best equipped to support those who come to be served.
One of the main takeaways Rodriguez wanted to bring back to his parish community was “the importance of welcoming young adults to our parish family, and to be able to listen to their input.”
He hopes to grow the young adult community by emphasizing integration with other ministries and across the Windward vicariate.
For many, the biggest message of the night was the importance of collaboration among the many young adult ministries across Oahu.
Cory Lopez, who is part of an active young adult ministry at St. Elizabeth Church, Aiea, has attended events like the forum before. She noted that with new faces being added all the time, the forum “is the only time that leaders in young adult ministry in our diocese get a chance to meet each other.”
She stressed how important it is to have this type of meeting and discussion. She explained that, on their own, ministry leaders may be “not sure if you’re going in the right direction for your parish.”
Sharie Quibilan, another leader from Our Lady of Good Counsel, mentioned that it was a relief to talk about “burn out” with other leaders and about how, for the sake of the ministry, “we need to remember to minister to ourselves.”
Lisa Gomes, director of the diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, was thrilled with the night’s results and the level of discussion that took place among leaders who normally wouldn’t get a chance to meet.
Looking forward, Gomes said her goal is to “form teams on the diocesan level that can help coordinate different events or programs.” She mentioned that examples of such programs would be Theology on Tap or the Tournament of Parishes. The events and series would be created from what young adults actually want and need.
Gomes’ hope, now that the forum is over and leaders are returning to work in their ministries is that, “young adults will get the attention that they need to get — [that there is an] awareness of the need to engage young adults in parish life.”