Looking to the future of young adult ministry

Twenty-five young adults gathered at Sacred Heart Church in Sauk Rapids in mid-March for the St. Cloud Diocese’s first-ever “Young Adult Summit.”

Trisha Welle, left, sings during Morning Prayer at the gathering. Jason Prigge, director of youth and young adult ministry for the One in Christ Area Catholic Community, and Philip Shefveland, director of campus ministry at Christ Church Newman Center in St. Cloud, led participants in the prayer. (photos by Gianna Bonello)

The goal of the all-day gathering was to discuss visions and goals for young adult ministry in the diocese while offering a chance for young adult Catholics to connect with one another.

The event included prayer, fellowship, music, lunch and discussion.

Participants watched pre-recorded Zoom sessions from Paul Jarzembowski, associate director for the laity at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. They read and discussed Pope Francis’ document “Christus Vivit” (“Christ is Alive”) from the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people. They also brainstormed elements and principles they wanted to see implemented in the diocese in the future.

For Jason Prigge, director of youth and young adult ministry for the One in Christ Area Catholic Community, this gathering “was time.”

“Young adult ministry was already happening, and now I think it’s time to set some new goals and objectives, especially with the new bishop,” Prigge said.

One attendee at the gathering was Dan Gottwalt, a member of St. Peter Parish in St. Cloud. He said he came to the summit because he is looking for community as he starts his professional life as an architect.

“Being here has been a really good opportunity to further my relationship with young adults that are Catholic and also to get a chance to voice some of my concerns and possible solutions,” Gottwalt said.

For Melanie Solland, a sophomore at St. Cloud Technical and Community College, the day was an opportunity to learn what she can do to further ministry for those her age.

“I’ve got some tools now that I can use,” she said.

Looking ahead

In a follow-up conversation, Prigge said he wants to avoid young adults becoming an “afterthought.”

Delaine and Rick Bzdok participate in a discussion at the Young Adult Summit.

“The next step I’d like to see is not from a ministry of desperation, but a ministry of meeting the need, a ministry of accompaniment, following the elements and principles shared [at the summit],” he said.

He also wants to see more “radical hospitality” offered for young adults from parishioners.

“We’re not looking for things to be fixed. We just genuinely want a place to gather where it’s safe, where it’s kid-friendly, where we can challenge one another… A warm welcome. A simple thank you for being here, thank you for bringing your kids,” he said.

One idea Prigge has is to host a once-a-month kid-friendly praise and worship night with a potluck and intentional social hour.

“Formats like that already exist, but [this is] with more intentionality [with a] focus on parents with young kids,” he said. “Obviously any young adult is welcome. … Perhaps this is an on-ramp for people to feel comfortable in the church building with their child.”

He would like for young adults to be listened to more intently and for there to be room to “practice.”

“We have to allow room for failure, on our side … I think there has to be an attempt for young adults to actually try something and for people to be comfortable with the uncomfortable,” he said.

Sally Traut, a member of St. Francis Xavier in Sartell who is active in the St. Cloud Metro Young Adult Group, said going forward she wants to find ways to “reach people on the outskirts.”

“What I’d like to see is trying to scoop up everybody who is a young adult, who is Catholic who feels like they’re alone and that there isn’t anyone else like them out there, to encourage them that there are people out here. We have a community, and we want you to be a part of that community,” she said.

Traut encouraged other young adults to recognize that if there is something that they want to see happen they should not be afraid to initiate it.

“You’re not alone; there is a community out there,” she said.

Looking to get involved in young adult ministry?
Email Kent Schmitz, associate director for youth ministry/adolescent catechesis for the Diocese of St. Cloud, at kent.schmitz@gw.stcdio.org. And join the Diocese of St. Cloud Young Adults Facebook group.

Author: Gianna Bonello

Gianna Bonello is a multimedia reporter for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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