which offers spiritual enrichment, faith formation and fellowship for young adults and parents of young children.
Many young adults and young parents crave to learn about their Catholic faith in more depth and examine what’s going on in the world with the lens of the faith, but they don’t know where to turn.
One initiative aimed at helping Catholic young adults and parents of school-age children at St. James learn more about Catholicism and build a community of faith is Encounter. Created specifically for adults ages 21 to 45 (but open to all) who want to grow in their relationship with God and fellowship with one another, Encounter provides opportunities for spiritual enrichment, faith formation, service, evangelization and fellowship.
“Our kids have many opportunities to learn and grow in the faith, and Encounter is an opportunity for us to continue our lifelong education as Catholics, helping us in our own faith and helping us raise our children in the faith by equipping us with truth,” said Matt Marcheschi, who leads Encounter.
A key element of the Encounter program is a monthly event bringing together married and single young adults to socialize and to discuss topics that they may not have the opportunity to delve into otherwise. “We’ve had topics ranging from prayer to questions such as: Is the church still relevant today? What does it really mean to be a disciple of Jesus? Why do we need each other in order to live out our faith?” said Marcheschi. Babysitting is provided during the Friday evening events to make it easier for couples with young children to attend. Encounter also offers small group Bible studies organized in both coed and single-sex groups as well as discipleship groups.
Marcheschi is a missionary with FOCUS, which was founded and fueled by the church’s call for a “New Evangelization,” meant to re-propose the gospel of Jesus Christ and church teaching in a language today’s culture can understand. The goal is to invite people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and his church, inspiring and equipping them for a lifetime of Christ-centered evangelization, discipleship and friendships, in which they lead others to do the same in the parish.
“Intentional discipleship involves accompanying people in their faith journey. This starts with meeting people where they are, sharing our story of faith and then giving them an opportunity to share theirs,” said Marcheschi. “It involves teaching people how to pray, if they don’t already know, and what it means to have a relationship with God.”
Helping people recognize the presence of Christ in their lives is one of the parts of his missionary role that Marcheschi finds most satisfying. “The thing that I really love about being a missionary is just being able to hear people’s life stories and, through that, show them where the Lord has been loving them,” he said.
One participant described how her experience with FOCUS has permeated her daily life: “FOCUS has given me countless resources to make practicing my faith a daily routine and has helped me become acutely aware of how God is woven so intimately into every aspect of my life. Our parish FOCUS missionaries have encouraged me not to keep my Catholic identity a secret, but rather share it with others.”
For more information about Encounter, including upcoming events, see the St. James Parish website (http://www.stjamesah.org/dbd-ministries/encounter-young-adult-21-45-ministry) and the Encounter Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/stjencounter).