By Celine Klosterman
IOWA CITY — Looking out at the Catholics gathered for the Diocese of Davenport’s second annual young adult conference Sept. 28, John Donahue-Grossman began his morning keynote with a note of encouragement. “The hope of the Church is you,” he said at St. Patrick Church. “It’s time for you to help renew the Church’s mission of making intentional disciples.”
Thirty-five attendees received advice on doing so throughout the conference, which was organized by the Catholic Young Adult Network, a group of young adult volunteers and diocesan staff ministering to Catholics ages 18-39. With the theme “Called and Chosen,” the event included Mass, opportunities for eucharistic adoration and the sacrament of reconciliation, breakout sessions and fellowship with young adults from four different dioceses.
Donahue-Grossman encouraged those young adults to reject the cultural implication that “we are our own gods.” People in their 20s are building a foundation for life — often with the degree, job and home they think they want, he said. Years later, “You may get to the top of that tower you built and think, ‘Is this all there is?’ But when you realize you’re a beloved son or daughter of God, you know your worth isn’t on the top of that tower.”
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Even in life’s difficult transitions, God is working, Donahue-Grossman said. “There’s no resurrection without the crucifixion.”
Though you may feel lost, remember that God has a plan for you, the speaker said. “When you recognize a need and know you can do something about it, you’re called.”
That calling can get lost in the cultural battle for our souls, Megan McDonald said in her breakout session on “Making God the Center of Our Relationships.” A member of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City, she encouraged young adults to choose invisible virtues such as chastity and charity over visible vices such as lust and materialism.
“We must right our relationship with the Lord before we can have right relationships with others,” said the former attorney. Now a homeschooling mother of 10, she said her family has found true joy in trying to follow God’s plan. That included embracing Natural Family Planning, which, besides the sacraments, “has been the greatest gift in my 19 years of marriage,” she said.
McDonald advised young adults to read Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae and set goals such as attending weekday Mass, spending five minutes in adoration, or putting away technology for an hour a day. “Only in the silence can we hear God.”
The heart of Catholicism is a relationship with the Lord, Donahue-Grossman said later. People in their 20s and 30s need to go on a spiritual quest, but it’s dangerous to do so without being rooted in the tradition of the Church, he said. “It’s OK to doubt and question, but don’t give up.… My prayer for all of you is that you have honesty and humility. That’s where the window is for God to come in.”
“Being a person of faith doesn’t mean you have to check your intelligence at the door,” Father Thom Hennen said in his breakout session, “Making Sense of Faith.” Many great thinkers and creators have been Catholic, including scientist and monk Gregor Mendel, artist Michelangelo and philosopher Thomas Aquinas.
“God gave us a mind, and he wants us to fully use it,” said Fr. Hennen, diocesan director of vocations. But just as people trust experts in secular areas of life, such as medicine and car mechanics, so should people turn to Church authorities when searching for truth.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church observes: “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.”
For Cassidy LeClaire of St. Patrick Parish, Fr. Hennen’s presentation was a highlight of the conference. “This event was a great opportunity to expand my knowledge of the faith and find new ways to share it with others,” she said.
Elizabeth Drewelow, also of St. Patrick’s, said she appreciated taking time out during the day for reconciliation and adoration. “The conference was a wonderful way to build community with other young adults who share a common purpose of growing in faith.”