Young adults encouraged to take on leadership roles

Young adult leadership weekend at White Oak Conference Center.

Young adult leadership weekend at White Oak Conference Center. WHITE OAK—Want to be an effective Catholic leader, at any age? You can’t do it without prayer and the sacraments.

Twenty men and women heard that message at a young adult leadership weekend held Aug. 25-26 at White Oak Conference Center. Organized by Valerie Soop, associate director for young adult ministry, the event was designed to offer people in their 20s and 30s a road map for becoming leaders in their parishes and community, but the information they received was useful for anyone who wants to lead others.

“If you’re going to be a leader in faith, you first have to have your own life of faith, and focus on your own personal holiness,” Soop said. “When you have the foundation of your own holiness, then you can go out and share the Gospel with others, minister with others, help them grow in their faith and invite them into a relationship with God.”

Soop said the success of young adult groups such as Lucis Via (Way of Light), with chapters in Greenville and Charleston, depends on effective young adult leaders who are certain in what they believe and can pass the light of faith onto their peers.

Father Matthew Gray, parochial vicar at St. Joseph Church in Columbia, gave some tips on the topic. Holiness, he said, is not an ethereal concept, but the “fundamental vocation of all Christians … the fullest expression of Christ and his church.”

For too long, he said, Catholics have thought of holiness as something only saints, the clergy or religious could attain. He urged the men and women to seek holiness by surrounding themselves with truly sacred and beautiful things such as art and music that elevate the soul, reading Scripture, receiving the sacraments regularly, seeking out friendships with other holy and faithful people, and regularly performing an examination of conscience.

Sister Pamela Smith, SSCM, the diocesan secretary of education, talked about the Second Vatican Council and how it changed the role of the laity in the church, calling them to actively seek out holiness, to take more of a role in the liturgy and to study Scripture.

“The council said that every baptized person is called to the mission of evangelizing the world,” she said.

Father Jeffrey Kirby, vicar for vocations, spoke about developing virtue as a path to holiness. Sin, he said, destroys a person’s relationship with God, but it can be overcome by genuinely seeking out God’s love, grace and forgiveness.

Participants also learned about mission and ministry, and joined in a discussion of existing young adult ministries, their strengths and weaknesses and ways to improve.

The focus on leadership will continue with a six-session crash course in Christian discipleship set to start up in Charleston and Greenville in September.

Megan Reichert, a member of Lucis Via in Greenville, attended because she wanted to meet other faithful Catholics.

“With such a small group of Catholics in the state, it’s great to connect with my peers who know what it’s like to try to live out their faith in today’s society,” she said.