- Prayer and Worship
- Beliefs and Teachings
- Issues and Action
- Catholic Giving
- About USCCB
Sons and Daughters of the Light: A Pastoral Plan for Ministry with Young Adults
November 12, 1996, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Campus ministry is first and foremost ministry in and with the academic
community—with those involved in teaching and learning. Few would
disagree that the "college years are a very significant time" for young
adults.43 As we said in our Letter to College Students,
in these years students greatly expand both their knowledge and their
skills. They also make some very important decisions about vocation,
relationships, and career. Therefore, it is only appropriate that the
Church seeks to be a partner with the college or university in the
cognitive and moral development of young adults.
Campus ministry is essentially ministry in higher education. It has an important role in helping students to assess the knowledge they are acquiring through the eyes of faith and to discern how they will use that knowledge in their profession. Because these Catholics are in the process of occupying leadership roles in society, theological reflection and moral formation are key.
While similar in many respects, campus ministry centers differ from parishes in a number of ways. The vast majority of people involved in campus ministry are young adults, while parishes are typically intergenerational communities. Campus ministry centers usually do not have the large number of families with school-aged children that some parishes have. However, some ministries to higher education are organized as parishes whose parishioners may or may not be affiliated with the university or college.
There are many specific ways that you can minister on campus to create a
climate of hope and a community of welcome. Begin by inviting your
friends and neighbors to join you at Sunday Mass...
Letter to College Students from the U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1995, p. 3
While campus ministry involves young adults, it is separate and distinct from young adult ministry. In the years since Empowered by the Spirit,
our 1985 pastoral letter on campus ministry, many campus ministries
have become creative centers of liturgy, community outreach, and
spiritual development. In that pastoral letter, we identified "six ways
in which the Church on campus can be a faithful witness to the message
of the Gospel: forming the faith community, appropriating the faith,
forming the Christian conscience, educating for justice, facilitating
personal development, and developing leaders for the future."44 We have used these six actions as the basis for the objectives we have set forth in this plan of action.
Many students have participated in these creative and empowering campus ministry experiences. This environment has allowed them to use their talents and to develop leadership skills that have helped them appreciate not only their giftedness but also the role that they can play in building faith communities. A major transition occurs when these young adults leave campus and look to be welcomed into church life at the parish level. Many tell us of experiences where they were not encouraged or invited to participate. Sometimes, their initiative is discounted and they are ignored. They feel frustrated and left out, leading them, at times, to seek a more welcoming community.
Campus ministry centers can help with this transition. They can collaborate with dioceses and parishes to help college students return to parish life. An explicit strategy to assist with this move needs to be developed by each campus center and diocese. This strategy should include equipping young adults for the transition, providing suggestions for engaging parish leaders, and providing lists to students of young adult friendly parishes. Young adults and the leadership of the parish, both ordained and lay, can develop specific initiatives to welcome returning students and recent graduates.
One specific strategy is to conduct workshops, using graduates who have successfully transitioned to a parish. A typical workshop can include community building activities and opportunities to identify specific needs and discuss solutions. The personal witness of young adults is key. Active and successful young adult ministry programs can be promoted and profiled. Campuses also may wish to keep a list of diocesan young adult coordinators because on any one campus, Catholic students will be from many different dioceses.
Other strategies to assist young adults returning from campus life to parish life include the following:
When I returned home from college, I wanted to be part of something and
to be around others who like me had a deep faith. Instead, I felt alone
and isolated; nobody made me feel welcome...
Nariman Ayyad, North Bellmore, N.Y.
The diocese has a unique role to play in ministry with young adults. Our
Church is more alive when all of our church agencies and institutions
work together toward a common goal. In this way, we can give our people
many opportunities to experience God's grace and the Church's care for
them. Pastors, campus ministers, and leaders of organizations will look
to the diocese for support and resources in developing ministry with
The diocese can be more effective than the parish or campus center in undertaking certain initiatives. The diocesan office can draw together young adults throughout the city or region for conferences, can provide worship experiences leading to a greater awareness of the universality of the Church, and can promote a young adult perspective within diocesan offices, parishes, campuses, and other diocesan-wide organizations.
Each diocese can assess its own needs regarding this ministry and can develop appropriate responses. No one model will be useful to every diocese in this country, but we can identify several proven approaches based on current practice and experience.
One approach is to establish a young adult commission that mirrors the different cultural, ethnic, educational, vocational, social, and economic spiritual realities of the diocese or region. Members might include young adults from the various regions, vicariates, and ethnic groups; parish leaders and young adult contacts; and representatives from campuses within the diocese and from Catholic movements and organizations. One responsibility of the young adult commission can be to plan, coordinate, and implement the diocesan or regional activities.
Functions of a Diocesan-wide Ministry with Young Adults
Dioceses can assist parish and campus leaders in several ways:
The Church is blessed with many Catholic organizations and movements. They provide a special ministry to young adults, furthering their spiritual growth and nurturing a willingness to be of service to humankind. Many of these organizations and movements were originally founded by young adults. Still today, they can benefit from the energy and vitality.
I wish every Church would take into account what young adults say and give us a chance to show what we can do.
Veronica Ortega, Texas
Return to Contents Page
By accepting this message, you will be leaving the website of the
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This link is provided
solely for the user's convenience. By providing this link, the United
States Conference of Catholic Bishops assumes no responsibility for,
nor does it necessarily endorse, the website, its content, or