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CoC Partner Conference 2014: A Young Adult's Perspective

by Melissa Carnall | October 16, 2014

I loved my own experience of Catholics on Call so much in 2012 that they haven’t been able to keep me away from the Partner Conference for the following three years as a way to still be in near proximity to such beautiful liturgies, vibrant speakers, and important conversations. This third year did not disappoint. In fact, it was an excellent culmination to what could potentially be my final year attending the partner conference as I’m finishing up my degree at CTU that keeps me in such close proximity to it.

As an MDiv student in a class related to missiology and inculturation, I was “nerding out” to Johnny Baker’s and Steve Leach’s presentation as they connected those concepts to ministry to young adults. It made so much sense!! Just as we “cross cultures” when we enter another country or culture and we have to be attentive to deep seated cultural assumptions as well as easily identifiable cultural practices like language and custom, so we “cross cultures” when we do ministry with young adults (or I suppose, when older adults do ministry with young adults). This requires the same attention to inculturation and to openness to the gift of the “other” that we attend to in missiology today, when speaking of how to appropriately be witnesses to the good news of the gospel but also be attentive to how God is already at work before we arrive.

I suppose that message was aimed at the older adult crowd given that I am squarely in the “young adult” crowd they were discovering how to better do ministry with, but I found myself wholly inspired the entire time, and not just because I was “nerding out” at the academic connections I was making between my class and the conference.  Consistently, growing up, I have always felt a bit disconnected from the majority culture of my peers, so I could resonate with the challenge to “cross cultures” and dive deeper into the culture of my peers, and also to apply that mindset to any age group that I may find myself in ministry with.

But these insights and inspiring challenges were not the best part of the conference. The best part was how we were encouraged to dream. All of this—inculturation, missiology, finding grace in young adult culture—only matters at the service of a higher calling.  Johnny reminded us, “We exist to change the world, not to be part of a religious community.” When we get stuck in questions of scarcity and fear like, “How can I better reach out to young adults because our communities are waning?” then we’re focused inward and we’re not acting out of the Love that called us to our own vocations. Instead, when we live who we, comfortable with ourselves, and certain that God is already at work in the Other (in this case, the young adult), we are free to “faithfully improvise,” free to discover our God is at work in ways we never could have imagined.

I left reinvigorated and encouraged to continue dreaming, to take more steps to “faithfully improvise” as a young adult Catholic in today’s Church.

Author information Melissa Carnall

Melissa is the Pastoral Associate at Old St. Mary's Church in Chicago's South Loop neighborhood. She was a 2012 Catholics on Call participant and then received her Masters of Divinity degree from CTU in 2015.  Before coming to Chicago originally for Amate House, the young adult volunteer program for the Archdiocese of Chicago,  Melissa received her bachelor's degree from Furman University in Greenville, SC with majors in Religion and Economics.

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