This Thursday and Friday, September 22-23, Sr. Katherine Mullin, VHM, and I have the pleasure of attending Catholics On Call’s Partner Conference entitled, “Engaging Young Adults for Church Vocations.” As we prepare for these two days, questions surface in my mind and heart.
Who makes up this demographic of young adults? What has shaped their individual and collective journeys as Catholics?
What does it mean to engage, authentically, young people within and without the church?
What inspires the heart, mind, spirit of any person and compels them to act, commit or enroll in the church in further ways?
When I think of my own vocational calling, and the impetus for intentional actions on my part to live a faith-filled life as a catholic, I return to the circumstances of my young adulthood and navigating giant questions of purpose and presence on this earth. I can point to the date that vocational questions started surfacing in my life and gave rise to my discernment path: March 28, 1987. This day marks two large events of my young adulthood: the suicide of my dear friend– just six weeks before we graduated from our catholic high school in Nebraska– and the occasion that I won a State Speech and Drama competition. Both events left an indelible print on my soul and inspired my ongoing formation as a person of faith. I began to really ponder, asking the God that I believe in:”Why am I here?” and “What do you want for me?” I coupled what I consider to be a God-given gift to perform text and a passion for “the word” with a darkness and despair that was keenly known by my friend no longer wanting to live. I wondered if somehow my life was meant to be stepping into that void and mystery of life, loss, and suffering and be an agent of love and hope?
In her writing and reporting, author and NPR radio host Krista Tippett addresses the role of large questions and faith in the face of suffering. Her program “On Being” – formerly titled “Speaking of Faith” — shares tales and meaty interviews with religious leaders and spiritual beings on this topic weekly. Ms. Tippett’s extensive research has elevated this conversation, from my perspective, and taken it beyond our closed doors of separate faith traditions, into the mainstream, where we might together navigate responses to our many questions of life, faith, religion, engagement, purpose and action.
I hold all of these questions, stories and information as Sr. Katherine and I head to Chicago for Thursday’s Conference. I pray that I may humbly tune into this experience, the speakers we shall encounter, and the spirits and minds likewise engaged in questions of young adult vocations in the church. May our conversations be rich, and may we address what underlies (and prevents or hinders) the issues of hearts seeking meaning, purpose, and a path for authentic living!
Will you join us in prayer as we travel, learn, connect and work to elevate and engage in the questions and conversation of vocation?