Preface: A Message to Young Adults

Sons and Daughters of the Light: A Pastoral Plan for Ministry with Young Adults
November 12, 1996, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we began to write this pastoral plan we chose first to meet with some of you. These meetings, where you shared the joys and struggles of your daily life, have been a time of grace and understanding for us. We applaud your desire to belong to a community that shares similar convictions and to learn more about sacred Scripture, tradition and the teachings of the Church. We acknowledge the pain many of you speak of in feeling unwelcome and alone—strangers in the house of God. For any failure to extend hospitality, we apologize and promise greater efforts to welcome you into church life. We hope that anyone who enters a catholic church for mass, or at any other time, will feel comfortable and welcome. We also acknowledge that some of you recently have joined the Church. We welcome you. Others of you may be tempted to leave. We regret this. What you have told us presents the Church with both a challenge and an opportunity for our ministry.

We know that your talents, and those of other young adults, can enrich the Church and can be a sign of God's presence in society. We invite you to share them with us and to become part of a welcoming community for other young adults as well. Not too long ago our Holy Father spoke of your importance to the life of the Church: "The Church needs your energies, your enthusiasm, your ideals, in order to make the Gospel of life penetrate the fabric of society, transforming people's hearts and the structures of society in order to create a civilization of true justice and love."1

We also heard you speak of the difficulty in making moral decisions. We pledge to work with you to provide effective Catholic education and faith formation for you and other young adults. We want to share the Church's rich history and tradition with you. We want to provide opportunities for you to explore the Scriptures so the word of God becomes alive in your hearts. It is not easy to live as a Christian in contemporary society.  The influences of media and some elements of popular culture do not always support Christian values. People can have convictions that are opposed to what we cherish. We are challenged to let the Gospel, rather than society or popular culture, define what it means to live a successful life. We are also aware that many young adults are approached aggressively by various spiritual and religious movements that perceive our religion as inadequate or wrong. Probably some people with whom you work or go to college will challenge what you believe. Appreciate your faith. Stand firm in your beliefs. Help those who do not believe in Jesus Christ discover the beauty of a life based on the Gospel.

In a special way, we would like to speak to those men and women in difficult situations: to those who are unemployed or underemployed, who have been abused, who experience discrimination because of economic or ethnic prejudices, who struggle with their sexuality, who are newcomers to our country, who are struggling in their marriage, who seek wisdom and guidance in raising children, or who are having difficulty making and keeping commitments. We want you to know that you are not alone and that we will continue our efforts to listen to your concerns and speak on your behalf, offering you a hope rooted in the embrace of Jesus Christ.

During your life journey, continue to hope and to dream. We want to support you in every way we can, even as we acknowledge that this support has not always been present. This is one of the works of the Christian community—to help you live your life in Jesus Christ. Do not hesitate to make Jesus the center of your life, the focus of your choices in life. In the words of our Holy Father, "Build your lives on the one model that will not deceive you . . . open the Gospel and discover that Jesus Christ wants to be your ‘friend' (cf. Jn 15:14). He wants to be your ‘companion' at every stage on the road of life (cf. Lk 24:13-35). He wants to be the ‘way,' your path through the anxieties, doubts, hopes and dreams of happiness (cf. Jn 14:6). He wants to be your God (cf. Mt 16:13-17)."2

We would like to share with you the words of one of your peers, a young woman who wrote to us from New York. She sums up what so many of you have told us and how we hope the Church can be present in your lives.

As a young adult in today's dynamic society, I—like so many other young adults—am hungry. I have felt a strong spiritual hunger, a hunger that stems from the need to discover who I am, who is my God, and what is my purpose in society. It is a hunger that once fed can continue to fuel my life journey in a direction that would follow the footsteps of Christ.

It is my hope that the Catholic Church will help guide me through this transitional period of my life; to keep me in touch with the "big picture" of life while I strive to pursue both my immediate and distant dreams; to help me find peace along the way. It is also my hope that the Catholic Church will provide us, as young adults, with the opportunities to truly feel an integral and necessary part of the church community; to provide us the chance to gather with other young adults so that we may share and reflect on our life journey and self-discovery together.

I believe that through a community of encouragement and support based on the life and teachings of Christ, the Catholic Church can give me the inspiration, strength, and perseverance necessary to continue my journey and to realize my hopes and dreams for life.

Michelle M. Mystkowski, Patchogue, N.Y.
In meeting you, the young adult members of the Church, we are more aware of your capability to love and serve. We invite you to continue to give of yourself, your time, your energies, and your talents for the good of others. We will be praying that the Holy Spirit guide you and the church as together we grow in the love of Jesus Christ. We promise to walk with you and with all people who love life. In doing this, you will be sons and daughters of the light—a light of hope for the Church, for our country, and for all humanity!

The Catholic Bishops of the United States

You have so many gifts to offer the Church: your faith, your desire to serve, your spiritual hunger, your vitality, your optimism and idealism, your talents and skills. We can all learn from you, so we ask you to expand your leadership role in witnessing to the Gospel on campus...
We look forward to working more closely with you to make the Church ever more effective in announcing the reign of God.
     A Letter to College Students from the Catholic Bishops of the United States, 1995, p. 5.

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