Catholic young adults share ideas, discuss challenges at listening session

By Maureen Smith
Christopher Luke, coordinator for the office of Stewardship represented the Diocese of Jackson at a listening session for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church – African American Affairs.
Twenty-five black Catholic young adults from across the nation gathered in Marriottsville Md., the last weekend in May. In the invitation, the USCCB stated that the intent of the meeting was “to help us begin to develop viable approaches and resources to effectively evangelize and cultivate leadership from this group (black young adults) within the Catholic Church.”
The selection process was competitive. USCCB asked dioceses and institutions to nominate participants who are active in their faith and have the potential to be leaders in the Catholic community. The group ranged in age from mid-20s to mid-30s. Will Jemison, Coordinator of Black Catholic Ministry for the diocese, nominated Luke. “The session allows those of us at the diocesan and parish level to learn more of what our young adults and youth experience in their faith journey; what they wish to see done to improve their Catholic experience; and ability to understand, translate, and share their faith with others,” he said.
Participants met at Bon Secours Retreat Center, in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, for a full weekend of presentations, discussion, fellowship, liturgy and personal prayer. Luke said he enjoyed the meeting and came back energized by what he learned. There were five sessions during the weekend, each with its own theme including ‘what is your experience of church,’ ‘what do Catholics believe,’ ‘finding our story in the Christian story,’ ‘our role in the Catholic Church’ and ‘cultivating an evangelizing spirit.’
One of the speakers presented the six models of the church community from Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ. The cardinal wrote a book explaining that the six, church as institution, community, sacrament, herald, servant and school of discipleship must work in balance for a parish community to work as it should.
“When those six models come together we come closer to living as the body of Christ,” said Luke. He said other speakers challenged the participants asking if their beliefs are reflected in how they live and urging them to take an active role in their parishes and communities. “In the last session we talked about what our role is and what we want to be, so that in the next step, to move toward what we want to be.”
Luke said the conference speakers encouraged those present to examine and strengthen their personal prayer and spiritual lives. He said the group was very dynamic. “It (the meeting) provided good insights. Everybody had good ideas and they weren’t too shy to let you know what’s going on and what needs to happen,” he said.  He also noted that it was interesting to hear people from vastly different communities are facing similar challenges. “As you told your story, everybody else had the same story,” Luke added.