Sons and Daughters of the Light: A Pastoral Plan for Ministry with Young Adults
November 12, 1996, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
What can the Church offer to fulfill the spiritual hunger of young adults? The Church
can offer them a vision of life based on a faith that calls each of
them to holiness, community, and service. In the previous section, we
discussed what life is like for young adults today. Now we wish to share
a vision of how this life can be lived through the lens of Christian
faith, where young adults see their search for identity, relationships,
work, and spiritual life in relation to Christ's call to holiness,
community, and service. We want to paint a picture of what it means for
young adults to make a commitment to Jesus Christ. This commitment
begins by accepting God's call to life with him. It is nourished through
a community of faith where we grow in holiness. It is lived daily as
each person works to transform the world according to God's plan.
The Church, as community, carries out the work of Jesus by entering into the cultural religious, and social reality of the people...she is able to preach the need for conversion of everyone, to affirm the dignity of the human person, and to seek ways to eradicate personal sin, oppressive structures, and forms of injustice.
National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry, no. 13
Accepting God's Invitation
Our faith tells us that goodness is possible because God acts for us.
God chooses us and plants the desire for himself in every human heart.
God invites us to be transformed into holy people, to
participate and find support in a community of believers, and to make
this transformation happen by continually saying "yes" to Jesus'
invitation to "Come, follow me" (Lk 18:22). This "yes" means, in the
words of Aida Salgado, a young adult from Texas, "to share with others
the Christ that came down from the cross to make his dwelling inside
each of us." It is becoming people of great faith—sons and daughters of
It is this deepening of one's spirituality through faith in Jesus Christ
that provides the foundation and lens for life. In a world of shifting
values, Jesus Christ offers us a solid foundation. He is the one
constant who will not change. In times of confusion and doubt, our
commitment to follow the lead of Jesus Christ can bring us a hope-filled
vision for our world. In the midst of life's many and unpredictable
changes, the Church's tradition resounds with God's hopes and dreams for
The Call to Holiness—Growing in Jesus Christ
What does it mean to be a holy or spiritual person? Simply put, it is
God's call to be in union with Christ. "You have been told . . . what is
good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to
love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Mi 6:8). To be holy is
to live according to the Gospel—to be grounded in Christ Jesus. It is
the ever-present challenge to be a people of heartfelt compassion,
kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness (cf. Col
3:12). It is a call to embrace the beatitudes—to be poor in spirit, to
comfort, to be meek, to be merciful, to be peacemakers (see Mt 5:3-11).
It entails listening and meditating on the word of God and actively
participating in the Eucharist and the sacramental life of the Church.
It is to pray individually and as a community and to pray often.24
It is an invitation to bring a heightened sense of the presence of
Jesus Christ into the regular rhythms of life: going to school or work,
raising a family, and participating in civic life.
The journey toward holiness is the path toward finding and satisfying
our hunger for meaning, making something worthwhile out of our lives. It
urges us to reach beyond ourselves in service to our families and other
relationships, to our work, to our communities, and to our Church; to
be zealous in the pursuit of justice for the poor, the marginalized, the
unborn, the elderly, the suffering, and the brokenhearted. "The
vocation to love, understood as true openness to our fellow human beings
and solidarity with them, is the most basic of all vocations. It is the
origin of all vocations in life."25 It is inseparable from our love for God.26
This deepening of faith in Jesus Christ leads us to a vision of what
life can be. It may require acts of courage to accomplish great things
for humanity. During this journey, we do not travel alone. We share with
all believers the struggle: "I'm on the battlefield for my Lord. I
promise him that I will serve him till I die" (African Spiritual). The
"call to holiness is [then] a gift from the Holy Spirit. [Our] response
is a gift to the Church and to the world."27
Today's young adults are at a disadvantage...there is a story and a face with each one of these lives...We are the generation that has grown up in broken families. We have gay and lesbian friends who want to be accepted for who they are. We have friends struggling with their sexuality yet feel as if they cannot discuss it. We have friends and family members who are divorces; we have friends whoa re single and pregnant...
Matthew T. Dunn, Beavercreek, Ohio
The Call to Community—Nourishing Faith
The challenge of being transformed into a holy person is not undertaken
alone but within a faith community. Young adults repeatedly told us of
their desire to find and to participate in communities that accept and
welcome them, where people hold values and beliefs similar to their own.
This longing for community touches each of us at the very core of our
being. It is basic to being human, not "an extraneous addition, but a
requirement" of our nature.28 Within the community, we
develop our potential, foster our talents, form our identity, and
respond to the many challenges of being holy men and women. Community is
not only an abstract principle but also a concrete reality lived each
day at home, on campus, within society, and in organizations, movements,
Community is God's promise to those who have accepted the gracious
invitation to live the gospel and to be lights for the world. Claimed by
Christ and baptized into the Holy Spirit, all have become full members
of the Church, worthy of the love, the respect, and the support of the
entire Christian community.29 This communion of faith is a communion of charisms, of gifts and talents, a place where young adults participate not only as receivers but also as contributors.30
This communion of the Church, rooted in God's love, offers young adults
the vision, purpose, and foundation for the healing that they long for
in the midst of life's painful experiences.
People of all ages voice the need for reconciliation and healing as a
result of failed relationships, abuse and addictions, sexual
permissiveness, violence on the streets, broken or violent homes,
unemployment, discrimination in all of its forms, rejection, and
loneliness. Christ's redemption is the basis for this healing. The
community of faith is the place where the healing power of Jesus touches
people and, through them, our neighborhoods, cities, and society. In
the sacraments —especially reconciliation and the eucharist—young adults
meet the healing presence of the Lord and receive the strength and the
grace to confront the many challenges of living a Christian lifestyle.
The call to Christian holiness and community demands a mutuality of
relationships. As young adults strive to grow ever more faithful to
their new life in Christ, so too the whole Church endeavors to celebrate
the gift of her young adults. The Church recognizes the Holy Spirit
working through them in their energy, creativity, participation, and
In the same way, we are called to hear their pain. The Church must be
open to learn from their experiences, anxieties, uncertainties, and
honest and constructive questioning. "The joy and hope, the grief and
anguish . . . especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way,
are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ
I feel that the Church can be a place where young adults return for reassurance during critical times of insecurity and searching. We need a safe place to talk about faith, or lack of faith, and a community to support us and let us know that examination and uncertainty are all part of the journey.
Heather Thomae, Little Rock, Ark.
The Call to Service—Living Faith in the World
The challenge of faith is to be a credible witness to the power of the
Gospel in the world today. we are inspired by the stories of young
adults whose enthusiasm and service build up the reign of God on earth.
Their thirst for knowledge, their efforts to maintain a life of
integrity, their respect for differences among all peoples, their care
for their children and the unborn, and their service through volunteer
and missionary activity all form a worthy testament to the role of young
adults in living out their faith.
We have spoken on several occasions about the call to Christian adulthood, most recently in our document on the laity entitled Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium
There we highlighted the many marks of a mature Christian: an awareness
of the significance of education, especially the ability to make good
decisions based on the teachings of the Church; the necessity for adult
catechesis and other means of faith development; the importance of
discerning one's talents in order to exercise them more effectively;
learning to live with mystery and ambiguity; and participation in
family, neighborhood, government, and society in ways that bring the
gospel principles of justice, compassion, and mercy truly alive. These
aspects of Christian maturity call all men and women to an understanding
that "we are called to be faithful, not necessarily successful."32
For young adults, as for all Catholic adults, the Catholic faith is
lived in the "ordinary dynamics of life—caring for a family, job
responsibilities, exercising duties of citizenship."33
is what discipleship is all about. The world is the place where men and
women fulfill their Christian vocation. The mission of the Church is not
directed at itself, but at nurturing and forming people who "are called
by God so that they, led by the spirit of the Gospel, might contribute
to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by
fulfilling their own particular duties."34
Through the call to holiness, community, and service through lived
faith, the whole Church provides the necessary support for young adults
to be disciples of Christ living their faith, nourished by the Church,
and proclaiming with the prophets of old: "The spirit of the Lord is
upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to
the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year
acceptable to the Lord" (Lk 4:18-19).
As I responded to the call of Christ found through prayer, Scripture, and church tradition, I decided that the only true response for these gifts would be one of service...I began to teach other young adults about that which helped me so much...I watched many young adults begin to seriously grapple with their own faith questions and then begin to seriously follow Christ.
Lisa Klewicki, Glendale, CA
The person who has been evangelized goes on to evangelize others. Here lies the test of truth, the touchstone of evangelization; it is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the Kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn.
Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 24
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