Sons and Daughters of the Light: A Pastoral Plan for Ministry with Young Adults
November 12, 1996, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Introduction: The Church's Ministry with Young Adults
The Catholic Church has always sought to provide ministry to people in
their late teens, twenties, and thirties through marriage preparation,
campus ministry, Catholic singles groups, military chaplaincies, and
participation in various organizations and movements. Young adult
ministry itself, as a designated area of pastoral care, has been part of
church life in many dioceses for over fifteen years. This plan applauds
these efforts and seeks to develop a more intentional ministry based on
In the introduction, we stated that one of our goals is to strengthen
the relationship of young adults with the Church. As in any
relationship, we need to know each other, therefore we identified the
tasks and issues concerning young adults. We also discussed how our
faith provides a lens through which we can view life. Now we offer a
plan based on the understanding of young adults in Part One and rooted
in the vision of faith developed in Part Two. We also build this plan on
the foundation of past strategies such as Empowered by the Spirit, the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry, Here I Am, Send Me, and Go and Make Disciples, to name a few. We hope this plan assists you in your ministry to and with young adults.
The strategies contained in this section are not meant to be
comprehensive, but to provide planners with a starting point. We believe
that a successful outreach to young adults will achieve four goals. It
will connect young adults with the following:
- Jesus Christ;
- the Church, by inviting and welcoming their presence in the christian community;
- the mission of the Church in the world;
- a peer community in which their faith is nurtured and strengthened.
Principles for Ministry with Young Adults in the Parish, the Diocese, and on Campus
The following principles are offered to guide the development of
effective ministry with young adults. Keep these in mind when planning
new pastoral initiatives or evaluating current ministries.
- Young adults internalize their beliefs and values within a supportive community and live their vocation in the world.
- Young adults seek opportunities for relationships with their peers and experiences that are intergenerational and multicultural.
- Young adults understand both the message of faith and the
traditions of the Church when these are communicated through words,
symbols, and activities that relate to life experiences.
- Young adults respond positively when the Church invites their
participation and engages them in the planning of activities for the
spiritual life of the community.
- The Church meets young adults where they are present: the workplace, the home, the campus, and the civic community.
- Effective ministry invites young adults into the life of the
Church and collaborates with them to identify specific initiatives for
the young adult community.
- Effective ministry assists young adults to become spiritual
people, thereby developing a holistic and healthy understanding of life
and deepening one's relationship with God.
- Effective ministry provides young adults with constructive
opportunities to ask questions and to discover answers present in the
teaching and tradition of the Catholic Church.
- Effective ministry with young adults engages them in peer ministry, as well as family ministry.
- Effective ministry acknowledges, understands, respects, and celebrates the cultural diversity of individuals and communities.
- Effective ministry facilitates and engages young adults in an
awareness of and an invitation to the work of justice, peace, and
- Effective ministry includes the commitment of necessary
resources for the evangelization, catechesis, and pastoral care of young
The framework suggested in this section can be adapted to a variety of
settings. Effective pastoral planning acknowledges the danger of
designing a single approach in the expectation that it can respond
adequately to all needs. This plan suggests a more dynamic and inclusive
approach by involving young adults in the life of the local faith
community and by developing specific initiatives within the young adult
One of our dreams is to be supported and encouraged by the church to carry out the commitment to our chosen vocation. We also hope the Church can be supportive of the many facets of our diversity. We hope the Church can incorporate our contributions of black Catholics into the Church's history...and abolish the notion of Blacks as new to Catholicism. We are eager to meet the challenges through assuming leadership roles, religious education, and actions of justice and peace.
Henri M. Barnwell, Virginia Beach, VA
The Parish and Young Adults
Often, the first community that Catholics connect with is the parish.
This may be where they were baptized, where they stop by when they are
in town, or where they hope to marry. Pastoral care for young adults
requires that parishes be a home for young adults where they are
personally touched in their faith journey. Here is where most young
adults experience life cycle events —birth, marriage, and death—and
struggle with the challenges of their lives—leaving home and coming
back. The pastoral care of young adults demands a certain kind of
openness and flexibility. Parish leaders need an awareness of the life
patterns, transience, and mobility of young adults. Those who work with
young adults will need an approach that is nonjudgmental yet
While this document acknowledges that ministry with young adults takes
place in many different communities, a preeminent place is given to the
parish. The goals, objectives, and strategies suggested in this document
are specifically directed to the pastoral care of young adults in the
parish community, but they can also be easily used or adapted for
ministry on campuses or military bases, or within Catholic associations.
Goals, Objectives, and Strategies
Ministry to and with Young Adults
We have identified four goals for ministry with young adults. These
goals and the following objectives, along with the principles for
ministry, should guide the diocese, parish, campus, military, and
organization in developing practical plans for ministry to and with
Goal One: Connecting Young Adults with Jesus Christ
Goal Two: Connecting Young Adults with the Church
Goal Three: Connecting Young Adults with the Mission of the Church in the World
Goal Four: Connecting Young Adults with a Peer Community
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