By Elizabeth Starr
The Catholic Messenger
Grace Christopher, a delegate from St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville, graduated from high school last month. She thought the Vision 20/20 Convocation was exciting. The general session speakers she listened to had great energy, were very honest and did a good job of “giving practical solutions,” she said.
While she felt welcomed, she wished the convocation had more youths. “It was a little intimidating walking in here and not seeing many youths.” After checking in with her youth minister, who is connected with the diocese, she said she was introduced to many people.
Jasmine Tone, coordinator of youth ministry for St. Alphonsus and St. Mary parishes in Davenport and St. Peter Parish in Buffalo, said much of what she heard reinforced what she has learned in her job and in previous training. Already a fan of Katie Prejean McGrady’s Twitter feed, Tone said she was glad to hear the speaker’s emphasis on the importance of prayer and the Eucharist during her keynote talk. Tone also appreciated the variety of people in attendance. However, “I wish there were more staff from parishes,” she said. “They are the people who are most likely to make changes.”
Tone said she is excited for what will come out of the convocation. One of the biggest changes she would like to see in parishes is allowing confirmed youth to have voting rights on the parish council. Another is encouraging newly confirmed youths to participate in the Mass, such as serving as lectors and eucharistic ministers. Allowing youths to have more impact in the parish life is important for ministering to youth, Tone said
Gabrielle Greco, a delegate from the Newman Catholic Student Center at the University of Iowa, said: “I was happy that evangelizing youth and young adults was a major focus of Vision 20/20.” Katie Prejean Grady’s talk “articulated the thoughts and feelings that my colleagues and I have been feeling in our experiences within the church and our parishes. We noticed that a lot of times in our efforts to be more involved or hold a position with our parish and faith communities, young adults are looked at as a novelty,” Greco said.
“Many are happy that we are there, due to the rising number of people of our age who are not practicing (their faith).” However, Greco believes that the parishes are unwilling to “take our views and ideas pertaining to faith concerns seriously. Katie made an excellent point about the common misconception about youth in the church. A common saying regarding youth has been that we are ‘the future of the church,’ but it is quite the opposite. We ARE the church!”
Greco said, “Gone are the days where young adults are practicing Catholics because that is what our parents did. Young adults practicing in the church today are there because they are choosing to do so, on their own accord. Realize that the youths, in practicing in your community, are very courageous: they are going against the rest of society, which is never easy. Young Catholics, especially those on college campuses, are subject to judgement, brash assumptions, being called intolerant and insensitive for following the church’s social teaching.”
“I am very thankful for the leadership opportunities that the Newman Catholic Student Center of the University of Iowa was able to give me. During my college years, I was given the opportunity to serve my parish community through a number of fellowships, including Outreach, Faith Formation, and Liturgical Ministries. With the help and guidance of our wonderful staff, including Father Jeff Belger, Christine Wissink and Laurie Harris, fellows are given the responsibility to oversee their fellowship, along with leading a team, to successfully execute each event or activity. These leadership positions have given me the confidence that young adults are capable to work with church staff and effectively plan and execute church events and activities.”