Young adult meet at a Spiritus Via event, a young adult ministry organized by the Office of Catholic Youth at St. Timothy's Catholic Church, Toronto. Photo by Julius Gracian

Toronto young adult ministry spreads its wings

  • August 7, 2018

Samantha Rossi had just graduated from university in 2017 when she began to feel apprehensive about what she wanted to do next. 

Like many Catholics her age, she was looking for a community in Toronto that would feed her faith at this transitional time in her life. While she was studying at McMaster University, she found a community at the campus chaplaincy. Now that she is no longer a student, there weren’t many places that ministered to young adults.

“Personally, I knew that I really craved that community and I could tell that other people felt the same way,” said 24-year-old Rossi.

Then along came Spiritus Via, a young adult ministry launched by the Office for Catholic Youth (OCY) in the Archdiocese of Toronto last summer, catering to Catholics aged 19 to 35 in the archdiocese’s eastern region.

Rossi said she was amazed how many young people came to the first event in Scarborough. 

“Young adults can be a bit of a transient stage,” she said. “Young adults are very much coming into their own, as well, just really forging their identity and becoming independent. That really is the key, giving them the confidence and the tools to make their faith their own.”

Rossi was hired by OCY last fall, becoming part of a movement of new young adult ministers who are serving the Catholic community in the archdiocese. OCY hired three part-time young adult ministers in the east and more recently, four part-time young adults in the west.

Sarah Rodrigues, OCY associate director of young adult ministry, said young adult ministry is gaining momentum in the archdiocese in a way that hasn’t really existed before. 

“Young adult ministry is relatively new,” she said. “Even the term ‘young adult’ is relatively new and to acknowledge that we need to minister to that group is a relatively new idea.”

For a long time, parish ministry has experienced a gap between young people and adults. Rodrigues said that the main difference between young adult ministry and youth ministry is that Catholics in the 19-35 age group are able to take ownership of their faith in a way that people of high school age are not. 

One of the ministry’s hallmark events is Theology on Tap, a speaker series originated by Faith Connections in 2003 that brings in Church leaders and experts to talk about current events in a relaxed setting of a pub or a restaurant. 

Rodrigues said the events became great opportunities to understand the needs and desires of Catholic young adults. And now, OCY is ready to expand to the rest of Toronto. 

“I feel like if you go on the Internet, there are always these huge questions about the millennial generation and everyone is trying to figure us out,” said Chanelle Robinson, a young adult minister. “I think that as a Church, as part of people who are trying to bring about the kingdom of God, it’s important that we recognize that there is this space and this opportunity to minister to people in a new way.”

There are seven new regional youth ministers who will be responsible for the main organization of the ministry, facilitating Theology on Tap and other regional events.

OCY has also recruited 25 to 30 volunteers to be part of a leadership team that will maintain follow-up relationships and organize small group meetings in the parishes. 

“OCY supports the parishes. We don’t run ministries and so it’s very important that we empower young adults,” said Rodrigues. “We want parishes to really invest in young adult ministry themselves.”

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