One thing I enjoy doing is thinking up ways that the Church can be improved. Now, I’m not saying that the Church is wrong, but, I do think that there is always room for improvements. Specifically, I want to look at some of the ministries that the Church has or has not.
First and foremost, I think that the Church really needs to spend more time on Young Adult ministries. Generally, Young Adult is defined as singles between the ages of 18-35 years old. As a former member of a successful YA group, it was really nice to make nice friends who shared my Catholic faith and happened to be at the same stage of life as me. I have made some really good friends who I still keep in contact with even though I have moved several states away and some of these friends have also moved throughout the country as well. This is an absolute necessity to the Church in my opinion and I’ll explain why.
Catholic children either go to Catholic schools or they go to religious education or Sunday school classes. Now in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, students go through religious education from Kindergarten all the way through 11th grade. At 12th grade they are no longer required to go through any form of structured religious education. This is fine. Now, we look at college. Sometimes you have a Catholic Church near the campus, but I do think it is a safe assumption that they are not always on the traditional point of view. You can still have a good education depending on who you meet, but at least in some ways you still have something there. Possibly. The average Catholic has no strong structural religious education between this time until the time that they are married and have children. At this time there are more formal adult education programs that the Church offers, but still not as much as what the children have.
Young Adult is where you can keep a lot of the future Catholics within the Church happy and healthy spiritually. A lot of times as well, Young Adults may find their future spouse within their group. I know many friends who met their spouse through our Young Adult group and are currently very happy. This is because I believe most practicing young Catholics, want to marry another practicing young Catholic. It is also important to note that this allows you to be friends with your spouse first, which is an incredibly important part of your marital relationship. Your spouse should be your best friend. But, I digress. Young Adults are the future of the Church. If you want a strong Church, you need to keep those who are still young and interested in all things relating to the Church involved so that they may become stronger and holier.
Second, a ministry that helps with keeping members feel welcomed within the Church. I have heard that Mormons have a ministry in every single one of their churches that involves keeping members feel welcome within the community. This is important in every Catholic Parish throughout the Catholic Church. For those Catholics who are not actively involved and are just going to Church once a week for Mass, may not feel connected to the parish. Now, its possible too that when they don’t have this connection, they feel like they aren’t getting anything out of the Church, or, the Church doesn’t care for them. This isn’t true of course, but when you don’t feel like the Church cares for you, your perspective is completely different. We need to get these Catholics involved within the Church and know that they are welcomed, valued and cared for.
Protestant churches do a very good job at making members feel connected, and we need to tap into this. This ministry would also involve talking to parishioners and letting them know that they are being prayed for and then they also have actual members within the community that they know and can even form relationships with. Strong Catholic relationships are important at helping others grow in their faith. I know for me personally that some of my best friendships and relationships have been when I have been challenged to grow in my faith and I have felt welcome within the parish community as a whole. This is going to be a very important ministry as it will help keep Catholics who are currently coming to Church on a regular basis, coming back for more and allowing them to continue to be stronger in their faith.
Its also important to note that even if they have stopped coming to Mass, that they know that they are still being felt welcoming and hopefully this will encourage them to come back. It also gives the opportunity to help evangelize those that don’t understand parts of the faith that are preventing them from coming back for more. Religious education is important and when people have questions and they aren’t getting answers, they will look elsewhere if it happens to seem like an answer to that question.
Third, a ministry that helps place RCIA candidates in other ministries within the Church. When people go through RCIA and decide that they want to convert from their previous faith or lack thereof (in my situation), or are being confirmed, they are usually on fire for the faith. They are so excited and the Holy Spirit really works hard with in them that they want to help out within the Church to share their new knowledge and new understanding of Catholicism. We need these new Catholics who have a different perspective of life, to be placed throughout the Church, where change and fire can help the Church to grow so much more. If you have ever spent any time talking to these people, they are so excited to be Catholic and are so full of faith. We need to harness this because I firmly believe that those who come into the Church are more likely to help spread Catholicism.
We need to be Catholics who are on fire for their faith. When we are Catholics who are on fire for our faith, we lead by example and those who are non-Catholic, or non-practicing Catholic, see the Catholic Church for what it really is. We need some change within the Church that is going to help keep us Catholic and will help bring our non-Catholic brothers and sisters home.