Magazine article U.S. Catholic

What Catholics under 30 Are Doing Right: While Many in the Church Bemoan the Younger Generations, Plenty of 20-Somethings Are Working to Bring about the Kingdom of God

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

What Catholics under 30 Are Doing Right: While Many in the Church Bemoan the Younger Generations, Plenty of 20-Somethings Are Working to Bring about the Kingdom of God

Article excerpt

In Catholic circles, there's one group that is much maligned and little appreciated. But it's a group that I have been blessed to work and pray with for many years. They are some of God's most inspiring friends who get from our church neither a lifetime of employment security nor the status of ordination, but who don't do this work for money or power anyway. They do it for love.

They are Catholics under 30. Here are some of the things they are doing right.

Service 101

Despite the demands of increasing tuitions, rising debt burdens, and heavy class loads, countless university students are still giving incredible service to the church and the world.

I work as a university minister at Loyola University Chicago, where we are graced with a vibrant liturgical life and transformative social justice programs.

Imagine 600 students in a standing-room-only chapel for Sunday Eucharist, beginning student-style at 10 p.m. After Communion, the congregation blesses 90 students who will spend their spring break on alternative break immersion trips. They are sent to build houses in Appalachia; serve meals in Baltimore; demonstrate for peace in Washington; pray with the Lakota people of Rosebud, South Dakota; and listen to the stories of the unemployed in Camden, New Jersey.

These 90 students actually had to be selected for those trips. Nearly twice as many students applied as we were able to send. It is a beautiful sight to see: All of these young men and women clad in their matching bright green T-shirts, standing around the altar, a visible sign of God's presence and love.

Of course, this scene is not unique to Loyola. Boston College sends nearly 150 students on international trips each year. Notre Dame's well-known summer project works with 200 community organizations around the country to provide 8- to 10-week service-learning internships to their students. Most Catholic universities and many Newman Centers around the country have similar programs.

For many students, these short-term experiences launch an even deeper commitment to gospel love and Christian friendship. Some of these students are so profoundly challenged that they become the teachers and evangelizers of their institutions.

A few years ago, for instance, a group of Loyola students began urging the university community to befriend impoverished coffee farmers of Latin America. These students insisted we First World consumers could and should pay a living wage to the families around the globe who produce the drink we have the luxury to enjoy. Their insistent voice brought a fair-trade coffee contract to Loyola. Now farmers who produce the coffee we drink at Loyola are guaranteed a minimum price of $1.26 per pound of coffee, while the free market bears the starvation wage of 54 cents per pound.

A "new novitiate"

In 1973 Dominican Sister Marcella Connelly returned to the United States from her mission in Bolivia with a fresh vision. Reflecting on her life of prayer, community, and service to the poor of South America, Connelly imagined a new partnership of sisters and young people.

The work she was doing, Connelly concluded, did not need to be limited to religious women. It was apostolic--that is, it was about being sent by Jesus to proclaim the reign of God. And all Christians, Connelly realized, were by their Baptism sent into the world by Christ.

So when she returned home, she and her congregation began inviting graduates of what was then known as Rosary College in River Forest, Illinois into their homes and ministries. Young women and men were invited to share in the apostolic life: They would teach in inner-city schools, staff shelters for the homeless, direct youth programs in poor parishes, or provide nursing care in rural health clinics. They would live communally on small stipends and pray regularly together. Though the Apostolic Volunteers (now known as Dominican Volunteers USA) lived and worked alongside the sisters, this was never meant as a recruiting program for the convent. …

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