Young Adults Key to Growing Small Christian Communities (SCCs)

Presentation in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey (USA) and in Santa Monica, California (USA)

By Mary Ann Jeselson of Small Christian Community Connection’s mission is to “celebrate and nurture hope for revitalizing our church and our world.” This can’t be done without young adults. We’re happy to report that across the country, young men and women are gathering to share their faith. Whether their Small Christian Communities (SCCs) run along conventional methods or through more creative approaches, these young adults are the hope and promise of our church. They are answering the gospel call of Jesus, “Come follow me” (Mark 1:17).

These SCCs get started through parish RCIA, Theology on Tap, seasonal or yearly sign-up Sundays, young adult retreats, college Newman clubs, ministry to youth, or, in one case, a weekly vespers service. Young Adult SCCs sometimes meet in a structure that is more loosely-defined than the traditional SCC. Michelle Sartori’s group at Presentation in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, USA meets once a month to pray and share what is happening in their lives. Several times a year, they prepare and share dinner with the homeless. Some volunteer to work with teens in Mexico. All of them work a few months each year with other young adults on Antioch, a retreat for teens. In preparing for Antioch, they also pray and participate in faith-sharing. It was while working on Antioch two years ago that Michelle and other women, who are in their 20s and 30s, decided to form a SCC group because “it’s hard to find community.” What do they use for materials? The host for the month is responsible for finding a resource for the evening, whether it’s something from the parish bulletin or an article that provides substance for their discussion.

Young Ministering Adults (YMA) at St. Monica in Santa Monica, California holds a weekly program they call “Vespers,” in which they “share prayer, scripture readings, and discuss topics relevant to the spiritual life of young adults.” (See One of these topics was “The Religious Art of Andy Warhol.” Warhol was a practicing Catholic throughout his life and the presentation focused on how Warhol “used contemporary images to evoke traditional Catholic themes, and how we can find spiritual meaning in his work that relates to our lives as young adults.” This was presented by an art appraiser who is also one of the members of YMA. Another topic was “Dating in YMA.” Delis Alejandro, pastoral associate at St. Monica’s, says young adult SCCs also begin if a group comes up with a theme or topic or book that can sustain their interest. Delis gives them information that’s current Catholic teaching. One group is reading The Secret (by Louise Hays) and she’s given them materials on the Catholic perspective.

Also in California, at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Chino Hills, a group of 15 young adults meets once a week in a rotational program. One week they discuss a particular topic or theme, another week it’s a social gathering, the third week is scripture study, and the last week of the month is a spiritual night that includes prayer and adoration. All meetings begin and end with prayer and include faith-sharing. After opening prayer, they begin their sharing with the questions: What were the highs and lows of your week? Where did you meet Jesus this week? Ed Noriega, Director of Young Adult Ministry, says the young adults are motivated to look for Jesus in unexpected places. After the meetings, which take place on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m., the group goes out for fellowship. In their geographical area it’s Taco Tuesday at a place where tacos sell for a dollar. The young adults also do outreach to seniors, visiting them at their homes and helping out with light chores and repairs. Every year they hang and then take down Christmas lights for the seniors they visit. In addition, they visit seniors in convalescent homes.
They also host Theology on Tap (see article in issue of CONNECT) and advertise in neighboring regions beyond their parish. Bishop Gerald Barnes likes to be invited to give a talk at one of their sessions.

The Nativity RCIA in Brandon, Florida was the starting point for Sarah and Mark Jacquith. Sarah was the catechumen and Mark was her sponsor. When their leader, Faith Formation Director Vicki Hawkins, asked the RCIA group if they wanted to continue meeting as an SCC, Sarah and Mark agreed. They meet in one another’s homes, pray, and share faith based on the Sunday readings. “Some of the readings speak to me and some are a little difficult,” said Sarah. The Jacquiths also look forward to doing something “outreach-wise.”

According to Pat White, Coordinator of RENEW’s “Why Catholic?” program at St. Matthew’s in Charlotte, North Carolina, young adults are using different resources. Some are using “Why Catholic?” as a resource. Others are using Gallup’s “Living Your Strengths”, a six-week program whose goal is to help members grow their parish into an engaged church. Still other young adults are developing a Theology on Tap program (see article in issue of CONNECT). Pat points out that meeting with their peers is a key attraction for many young adults. Young adults want to discuss what it means to be Catholic in today’s world.

Pete and Mary Denio of Presentation Parish, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, meet on a regular basis with other young couples with families. They wanted to be sure to get into a young married couples’ SCC. Pete said, “We were just getting married and knew people from working on the Antioch retreat for teens or from the parish Young Adults retreat. So it was pretty intentional that we created an SCC for young married families. I recruited people that I had known in the parish through retreat work or working together on the teen Antioch experience.”

The Denios meet once a month with their SCC. They base their meetings on the lectionary reading for the coming Sunday. Pete adds, “Our SCC is the most significant thing in our lives right now. We pray together, socialize, baby-sit each other’s kids, do service projects together with our children, celebrate each other’s anniversaries, and go to church events together. The main way we nourish our lives, outside of the Sunday Mass, is through our SCC.”

Author: Mary Ann Jeselson and her husband, Steve, belong to Presentation, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, and to Sojourners SCC. She is also a member of a women’s group.
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Resources for Young Adults

Diocese of Rochester Spiritual Renewal
Prayer for Spirit Alive! Spirit Alive! Retreat · Lenten Fasts · Great Leaders of Catholic Spirituality · Resources for Families · Is that "Catholic" – CachedSimilar