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“Ask a Priest: What If I Soured on a Young Adult Ministry?”
Q: I have been a part of a large parish in the South for almost a year now. Despite my attempts to get involved and meet people I still feel like an outsider. I’ve not made friends with anyone. I’ve tried joining the young adult ministry, but that was an epic failure. The group seemed to want to set me up with some random guy whom I didn’t know well and wasn’t interested in. How can one find belonging and acceptance within a parish community without encountering unexpected conflict? Is that possible? As a result of this experience, I’ve also incurred a loss in faith, so to speak, and have strongly considered leaving the Catholic Church altogether — especially as a result of my involvement with the young adult ministry. How can I get involved with a parish without coming to the point of questioning or doubting my own faith due to the way people within the parish treat me? Or is that meant to occur? Thanks! – J.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: I’m sorry to hear about your situation.
Not all Catholic parishes are as welcoming in the way that newcomers would like. Single people are particularly prone to feeling left out, especially if the great majority of adults in a parish are married.
It is possible, however, that parishioners in the young adult ministry were aiming to roll out the welcome mat for you, precisely by trying to play matchmaker. The attempt apparently backfired.
Still, their hearts might have been in the right place. Their attempt to set you up with eligible men might have been their way of saying they think highly of you and that they want to help you get established in the community.
All that aside, it’s good to remember that the primary reason we are in the Catholic Church is Jesus. Our Lord gives himself to us in the Eucharist. That is something we don’t want to lose for any reason.
But beyond the Mass, what else could help you to stay within the embrace of the Church? A few suggestions might help.
First, see if there is something you could do to fill a gap at the parish. You might join a volunteer group that helps the poor, or a pro-life group that assists a crisis-pregnancy center.
You might also look to join a group outside your parish. There might be a Young Catholic Professionals chapter in your area. If not, perhaps you could help start one.
You might also look into an interreligious group that does worthwhile things, such as pro-life work or programs for underprivileged children. Along the line you might find develop good friendships.
You might want to come up with a calendar of events for your ongoing spiritual growth. This could include regular confession, a good diet of spiritual reading, and a yearly stay at a solid Catholic retreat center. To this end, you may want to watch our free Retreat Guide, The Complete Christian: A Retreat Guide on the Calling of the Twelve Apostles.
In a word, try to be pro-active and don’t give up! God has great things in store for you. Reach out to others and you will likely find young Catholics who are pro-active about their faith, too. This can help you build a network of friends that sustains and nourishes you.
I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.
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I sympathize fully with the young woman’s plight. Although older, I experienced the same lack of welcoming from the youth ministry director here. Your response was clear and suggests an excellent course of action. Regarding a retreat may I respectfully suggest an excellent resource? “Benedict’s Way,” coauthored by Lonni Collins Pratt and Father Daniel Homan, OSB is a practical guide for anyone in search of timeless wisdom.