Congratulations on your graduation. Four (or more!) years ago, graduation, jobs and the "real world" were just a small spot on the horizon of your life. Now they loom before you and other realities take their place on that same horizon—questions of community, vocation, work, relationships and developing an adult faith. The Campus Ministry Office thanks you for the chance to have shared your spiritual journey these past several years. We pray that, as you move from campus life and into this new, exciting and often intimidating stage of life, you will find nourishment for your maturing faith, a place to call your spiritual home, opportunities to share your gifts, and the grace to keep your eyes focused on the horizon of God's plan as it unfolds before you and beckons to you. To support this important process, we offer the following suggestions:
1.) Join a local parish---soon! Seek a place where you are spiritually and maturely fed and your gifts are valued and welcomed. Not all parishes are alike. Ask other young adults where they worship. Resist the urge to keep worshipping at your Newman Center or old Campus Ministry site. Stop by a parish and meet the staff. Look for a parish that offers parishioners the chance to join small faith groups and sponsors young adult groups. Join a parish not so much for what you can receive but for what you can give. Don't wait around to be asked to get involved or expect a personalized invitation. It is your responsibility to let the parish know that you are willing. Volunteer your time and talents. Practically speaking, you need to join a parish so you can celebrate weddings, baptisms and other sacraments there. Speak with the priest or deacon after Sunday Mass or contact the parish office during regular business hours during the week.
2.) Seek out companions for the journey. Many parishes have groups especially designed for young adults, newly married couples and singles groups. The "Renew" program is especially good for this (http://renewtot.org/RENEW/home.NSF?OpenDatabase&836122458). Look for a "Theology on Tap" program if you see one listed in your local area (www.renewtot.org). Joining a faith-sharing group allows you to get to know members of your parish. If there's not one already, form one! Many dioceses have Young Adult groups organized on a regional basis. Below are listed some Diocesan Offices in the nearby area:
Links to Diocesan Young Adult Ministry Offices around the world: http://members.aol.com/yapac/links_yam.htm
National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry: (see section for Educational Resources) www.nfcym
US Conference of Catholic Bishops www.nccbuscc.org/laity/ygadult/index.htm
National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association: www.ncyama.org
The Knights of Columbus is a world-wide social/spiritual fraternity for Catholic men. Its goals are to provide fraternity, spiritual and social support, to serve the community and to support and protect the Catholic Church. For more information and to locate a Council nearest you, go to (www.kofc.org/officers/findcouncil/index.cfm)
3.) Deepen your prayer life. Practice personal prayer every day, even if it is very brief. Begin and end your day with it. Deepen and develop your prayer life through reading, reflection or joining a prayer group or small faith-sharing group. If you had a positive experience of a retreat in high school or college, think about making a retreat through your parish our other local Catholic retreat house. Some in the area are:
Investigate the chance for spiritual direction (www.sdiworld.org) . Learn about one or more of the various spiritualities of the Church-Salesian, Franciscan, Jesuit, etc. and use it to give shape and direction to your personal prayer and daily life. Learn about our many devotional prayer forms---the Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy (www.praydivinemercy.com/ ) and other similar prayer forms. Find a parish where Eucharistic Adoration is held. Learn more about the Mass, the central, communal prayer of the church. Learn how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the other official liturgy of the Catholic Church (www.ebreviary.com) .
4.) Learn more about your Faith. As the old cliché goes—"Jesus came to take away our sins, not our intellects." Research suggests that the average US Catholic has an 8th grade level of knowledge about their Faith. Why settle for that? Let your faith be at the same level as the rest of your education and experience at least. Participate in a parish program. Read a book on Church history, social teaching, theology, spirituality, etc. Subscribe to a Catholic publication such as your diocesan newspaper or a national magazine such as "America" or "St. Anthony Messenger" Check out www.bustedhalo.com - a website designed for Catholic young adults. Consider taking online courses for credit (www.usccb.org/laity/laitysurvey/schools.shtml#9)
5.) Consider a year of volunteer service. Consider serving in the Americorps Volunteer program, the Peace Corps or any of the many religiously based service groups such as the Jesuit Volunteer Corps or the Mercy Corps, just to name a few. Check out "Connections 2008", a directory of volunteer opportunities across the country and around the world (www.pallotticenter.org) . This year may prove invaluable for your selection of a future vocation, for the strengthening of your faith and for personal development. For those recent graduates who are interested in serving for a two year stint as a Catholic evangelist on a college campus, check out the Fellowship of Catholic University Students or Focus. (www.focusonline.org) .
6.) Structure generosity into your life. Let your parish know that you are there to help. Become involved in religious education, RCIA or youth ministry. Help with the social ministries sponsored by the parish, the diocese of the city. Give blood. Assist Habitat for Humanity. Become a "person for others." Give to groups that help the poor. Give reasonably from your financial resources to help local charitable organizations, especially those sponsored by the Church. Support your local parish for it depends upon your donations to pay its bills. Ask for envelopes and use them. If you cannot give financially, give of your time and talents. "To whom much is given, much is expected."
7.) Consider your vocation. 'Vocation" is about discerning and responding to God's particular calling for that person's life. Each of us is called by God to consciously, thoughtfully and freely live out the demands of our baptism. That is THE fundamental Christian 'vocation.' One may speak of 'vocation' in terms of a profession and/or a lifestyle choice. To address the deeper meaning of 'vocation' is to acknowledge the deeper meaning in what we do for a living or how we are in relationship with one another. As Catholics, we are in relationship with others through one of four lifestyles—Marriage, Holy Orders, Religious Life or the Single State. Pray about your future and how you can best live out God's will for you. CHOOSE a vocation. Don't let the lack of reflection and the daily circumstances of life decide for you.
For those considering the vocation of Marriage, there are many websites to consult. As with any large topic on the web, use your faith-filled discretion. Just because it is on the web does not mean that the information is necessarily accurate or unbiased. There are also several Catholic dating sites such as www.catholicmiongle.com and www.catholicmatch.com Again, using your discretion and some common sense are highly suggested.
For those considering Holy Orders (Priest or Deacon), consult the website of any diocese in the US. One good example is www.vocations.com/discern. While it has a major focus on Religious and ordained vocations, it also has strong sections on talent and personality type identification, career inventory and planning.
For those considering Religious Life, www.vocationmatch.com, sponsored by the National Religious Vocation Conference, is an interactive program to help people become acquainted with the options of religious life in the Church. "A Guide to Religious Ministries for Catholic Men and Women" (www.religiousministries.com) is also a helpful resource. Another helpful website is www.catholicsoncall.org. Associated with the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, it is also suitable for those considering professional lay ministry.
For those considering professional Lay Ministry in the Church, the website www.nalm.com offers good material for reflection and action. Consider reading the document "Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord" published by the U.S. Catholic Bishops describing their vision for Lay Ministry (www.usccb.org/laity/laymin/co-workers.pdf ) Training for professional Lay Ministry can take many forms. See the material below for a few options:
Education for Lay Ministry (Diocese of Allentown)
Institute for Lay Ministry (www.liveyourfaith.org) Scroll to "ILM" a 3 year program designed for those wishing to serve as Lay Ministers in the diocese. See the website for more information.
The Catechetical Institute of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia provides general catechesis for adults and certification credits for catechists through the Office for catechetical Formation. See (http://religious-studies.scs.edu/
Professional Education for Lay Ministry
Villanova University offers a Masters in Theology degree.
St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, PA (Archdiocese of Philadelphia) offers Master of Arts through the Religious Studies Division with concentrations in Scripture and Spiritual, Systematic, Moral Theology. See (http://religious-studies.scs.edu/)
Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, offers four degrees for those interested in professional ministry. Website: www.ctu.edu.
And for those preferring a job with a Catholic organization, consult www.catholicjobs.com