By STEPHEN O’KANE, Staff Writer | Published September 18, 2008
Young adult ministry leaders from throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta brought ideas of collaboration to the table when they gathered for a leadership meeting Sept. 2 at the Catholic Center in Midtown.
Representatives from the English- and Spanish-speaking Catholic communities opened the discussion on how to work together in light of a recent reorganization of the Office of Religious Education, which encourages laity and parishes to become more involved in the process of organizing and hosting events.
Dorothy Polchinski, associate director of adult and young adult ministry for the ORE, led the meeting with an open mind and guided discussion. Encouraging ideas from those present, she made sure the meeting was both prayerful and productive. The leadership meeting is a quarterly gathering scheduled for young adult leaders.
The official mission of YAM in the archdiocese is “connecting single and married young adults, ages 18-40, with Jesus, the Catholic Church and one another through spiritual, social and service opportunities.”
According to Polchinski, the leaders “meet to network, to find out about the different events being hosted by various young adult groups, to work in connection with the YAM office on coordinating schedules and to stay in the loop with archdiocesan activities.”
As leaders gathered, the “Oración del Arzobispo Oscar Romero,” or “Prayer of Archbishop Oscar Romero,” officially kicked off the evening with words that echoed the mission of young adult ministry in Atlanta.
“We are the seeds that one day will grow. We spread the planted seeds knowing that in them will be a promise for the future. We set a foundation that will need additional development,” the group prayed together in Spanish.
Polchinski built on the message, saying, “This is a very exciting time here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.”
“We are moving in a new direction,” she said. “If we move forward together, we can accomplish great things for the kingdom of God.”
One of the big pushes of the evening was inviting more leaders to be involved with their deanery. Since the archdiocese is divided into 10 regional deaneries, the hope is that the parishes, and the archdiocese as a whole, can benefit from leaders networking about which events and what methods are effective in their respective ministries.
Collaboration was a theme that came up frequently during the meeting. Many leaders felt they did not have a good enough grasp of what was happening with young adults at other parishes in the archdiocese, especially in communicating between Hispanic and non-Hispanic communities.
Representatives from Pastoral Juvenil, the young adult ministry for Hispanics, were present and expressed interest in planning some events to bring these two groups of young adults together.
Polchinski encouraged the idea, as did those present at the meeting.
The group also agreed that these two distinct facets of the North Georgia Catholic Church should not forget about their own unique identities.
“It was great to have a combined meeting with Pastoral Juvenil. We have so many events being hosted by parish young adult groups that are naturally connected with events being planned by Pastoral Juvenil,” Polchinski said afterward.
“To see such a broad spectrum of leaders come together around the same table and share ideas was a positive step in the direction of unity without uniformity,” she added.
Polchinski also encouraged the leaders to speak about any events they had coming up so they could begin networking and sharing ideas.
Representatives all the way from St. Brendan Church, Cumming, to those from the nearby Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, spent a significant portion of the evening sharing their ideas and plans for the rest of the year.
Their events included retreats, the popular Theology on Tap, clothing and blanket drives, and several other social and service-driven projects.
As part of the reorganization of the ORE, parishes are taking a larger role with YAM events. Parish leaders will be responsible for scheduling speakers and arranging events with the assistance of the ORE.
The meeting served as a stepping-stone to revamping ministry for young adults in North Georgia. In November, the group will gather again to discuss how to tackle the issues that were raised.
“It would have been nice to have begun the initial stages of brainstorming thoughts and ideas, but we just ran out of time—not a bad thing considering that the time was taken by the amount of communicating back and forth between the groups represented,” said Polchinski. “Communication is key as we learn to come together around the same table as the body of Christ.”
However, the attendees continued the discussion after the meeting, exchanging contact information and asking to be kept informed about what each other’s parishes were doing.
“We were able to begin building a bridge. The excitement and energy from the participants as they exchanged ideas and learned from one another is testimony to this accomplishment,” Polchinski said.