By Celine Klosterman
IOWA CITY – Toward the end of her time as an undergraduate student at Truman State University, Meghan Whitaker got involved in the Catholic Newman Center in Kirksville, Mo. There, she surrounded herself with supportive Catholic peers and grew as a person, she said.
After graduating in May 2011, she missed that support system. So she and Kathryn Churchill, both 20-something volunteers with the iSPY youth group at St. Patrick’s in Iowa City, formed the Young Adult Catholics ministry for 18-35-year-olds this fall.
“I think it’s a missed demographic in the Church,” said Whitaker, a financial representative. “There are ministries for youths and children, but not much for young adults.”
Since first gathering in October, more than a dozen young adults have met twice monthly for discussion, Bible study and prayer. Future plans include service projects, social events and studies including one based on the work of speaker and author Matthew Kelly.
Churchill hopes helping Catholics understand their faith will inspire them to get more involved. “I know young adults are probably the least active group in the Church. We want to help them make their mark,” the physical therapist assistant said.
The graduate of Kirkwood Community College also believes in the importance of building friendships with fellow Catholics. “In college and for two years afterward, I had to sit by myself at church. I know my brother stopped going to church for awhile because he didn’t have someone to go with.” Thanks to Young Adult Catholics, group members may now have a companion to attend Mass with, she said.
The potential for fellowship is what drew Kelly Franklin to the group. A Ph.D. student in literature at the University of Iowa, he and his wife are Minnesota natives who joined St. Patrick’s last fall. “We were looking for a way to not only meet other people in our age group, but also other Catholics. We wanted to find a faith community.”
Young adults don’t make up a large demographic in most parishes, he noted. “You’re not a kid; you’re not in college; you may not be married with children.” And it can be hard to form lasting relationships with young professionals, who often change jobs and move away, he said.
But Franklin appreciates fruitful discussions that members of Young Adult Catholics have had. “The biggest thing for me is praying together. It’s really special to be able to come together at the end of a meeting, share prayer intentions and pray for each other.”
He shared one intention for the larger Catholic community: “Pray for young adult ministry in Iowa and around the world.”
Young Adult Catholics meets next on Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Zaga Room at St. Patrick Church. For more information, email Churchill at firstname.lastname@example.org.