That was one of the strong suggestions Father John Cusick
gave to an audience of nearly 300 at this year's Diocesan Stewardship Conference, held on October 28, 2006, with the theme of 'Joyfully Gather Us In'.
"Jesus didn't post his
message on the synagogue bulletin board.He
invited people personally, You Simon, you John
, come with me," he
said.Father Cusick, director of Young Adult Ministries for the Archdiocese of Chicago, set the theme for this October's conference at St. Jude Thaddeus Family Life Center -- welcoming and evangelization.He
audience to make room for all, especially those in their 20s and 30s.Father Cusick
challenged the group to always be inviting.He
told attendees of a young woman who called his
office after speaking to several parishes about her
desire to be married in the church."All they wanted to know is if I were registered in the parish.No one asked me if I were Catholic or even in love," the woman said to him.
The Chicago priest said a better response might have been to invite the young woman and her
fiancée to the parish to learn more about their plans.Father Cusick
was not asking that the church bend rules, only that clergy and laity remember what the mission is -- to call people to Christ. Father Cusick, one of the creators of Theology on Tap, an international ministry to young adults, warned that the church is missing out on the gifts of young adults who often feel alienated from an aging parish community that requires long-term commitment for parish service and ministry.
"We send out schedules for three and four months.Most young singles and young parents have no idea in November what they will be doing in February," he
suggested that religious education could be done through teams with a master catechist and two young adult assistants.This would give the assistants a flexible schedule that would not require them to be present for every teaching session.
"Each of us needs to be mentoring our own replacements," he
encouraged both pastors and lay people to make an effort to secure the majority of its council and committee members from the 'under 40' group in order to combat a graying church leadership."We've been concerned about preaching to the choir.Soon the choir is going to be a soloist," he
said.Letty Lanza, director of Stewardship and Communications, said the response to Father Cusick was very positive.
...While Father Cusick delivered his keynote to the English-speaking audience, an audience of 70 Spanish-speaking stewards had a chance to hear from a representative from a small parish in Kress, Texas.