Do you see the brilliant light shining in the bleak picture often painted of the Church’s future?
Over my 10 years in high school youth ministry and catechesis, I’d often hear adults exchange their condolences with one another, imagining their beloved young person setting foot on a college campus and immediately throwing their Catholic identity aside.
While it’s true that college has traditionally been one of the first places where a young person’s faith is challenged by the convergence of diverse beliefs in their campus community, this should be something we—people who believe the Truth sets free—celebrate rather than fear.
The Center for Applied Research In the Apostolate (CARA) has found that 40 percent of people who entered the Church as adults entered between the ages of 18-29.
My Eyewitness Account
I began working for Pilgrim Center of Hope here in San Antonio ten years ago, as a senior finishing my B.A. degree. During my time at university, I witnessed the baptism of two students whom I personally knew, and another’s entrance into full communion with the Catholic Church from a strongly Protestant background.
Their conversions were not the result of any particular programs or courses.
These three individuals were a part of my circle of friends, which had at its core several young adults who were striving to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Let’s be saints!” we would say.
We lived joyfully, cultivating a little family among ourselves wherein God was loved. I then began to see that our love for God and one another was contagious.
University life fostered organic conversations about what mattered to us. We would gather together, toast some bread, sit on the floor of the dorms, and talk about what we believed. Some of my friends initiated works of mercy and invited others to come along. Some decided to start praying Night Prayer together in their dorm room.
Our youth gave us a great advantage: authenticity and less inhibition. Without the burden of worry, we openly invited and welcomed people to come along to prayer or works of charity, or to meet our consecrated lay friends.
Soon, the dorm room was not big enough to hold the number of people who wished to stay for Night Prayer. Soon, our few shifts for Eucharistic Adoration at the parish next-door became a regular on-campus Adoration time for students. Soon, those who had never given much thought to religious faith were donning baptismal gowns.
How We Successfully Evangelize
Pope St. Paul VI hit the nail on its head when he said, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”
Programs, books, campaigns, and projects for evangelization are all wonderful things. At their core, however, they will only be successful if they are accompanied by our authentic Christian witness; our actual living of the Good News.
I learned this principle first-hand on my college campus. I see its vindication each day working for Pilgrim Center of Hope, which is primarily built on the grassroots model of evangelization that God himself established in the life of Jesus Christ and is carried on in the daily lives of Christians. Every day, my coworkers and I see the fruit that grows from the seed of God’s grace, planted in the authentic Christian lives of parents, friends, children, coworkers, and neighbors.
Yes, the rate of persons who leave or disown religious faith is increasing, but do not despair. This reality should remind us of the urgency of Christ’s calling for us to spread the Gospel.
We “are children of the light and children of the day” (1 Thess 5:5). We are not called to spend our time in anxiety or worry; on the contrary, we are called
“to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has made [us] fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light” (Col 1:10-12)!
Let’s accept this challenge, and welcome God’s abundant gifts to help us live each day with hope. By living this way in our daily responsibilities—wherever God has placed us, be assured that we are each sharing the Gospel. That is Good News!
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.
Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, having served at the apostolate for nearly 10 years. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team.