Today’s EvangelizationLaurence Tiblis
The spread of COVID-19 has forced spiritual leaders to reassess their ministry strategies. Today’s young adult leaders have responded with agility, encouraged by modern-day technological tools, which increase evangelistic efforts to limitless virtual borders.
The coronavirus pandemic has put an unprecedented halt on the world’s social gatherings. In a mere six months, large community events look like relics of the past. In Philadelphia, many scheduled young adult activities had to be postponed or cancelled. However, event leaders have navigated through unchartered territory by maintaining strong virtual connections with their communities. It’s been challenging, but these intrepid young leaders have discovered blessings along the way.
Laura Baldassari, the Youth Ministry Coordinator at Visitation BVM in Norristown, Pennsylvania, has always kept a busy schedule, whether volunteering at her parish, helping out at a crisis pregnancy center, spending time with family and friends, or taking on new hobbies like paddle boarding. Little did Laura know that 2020 would create an unforeseen Virtual Age that would require her to develop new skills. Since the pandemic began, she’s learned different virtual platforms, participated in video conferences, and hosted online youth events,
“With this pandemic, my schedule definitely changed, but it also opened up a great deal of time for us to host a youth program over Zoom,” Laura explains. “Thank God for Zoom! I never knew it existed.”
The Virtual Age has also created ample opportunities for those who might not have been able to participate in these events because of obligations surrounding families, work, or travel. According to Kyra Malamood, Young Adult Leader and Facilitator for Jack’s Yacs in Philadelphia, their virtual events have attracted young adults from Rhode Island, Maryland, and Ohio.
“There are people who have never personally been to our events but have been able to attend them virtually,” she states. “Although we can’t meet them in person, we’re still fulfilling their needs.”
Carolina Soares Nemo, Young Adult Leader at The Miraculous Medal Shrine, believes that this pandemic serves as a learning curve for more innovative evangelization. “It’s challenged young adult leaders to be more creative with outreach and programming. We’ve been granted a unique opportunity to evangelize beyond the boundaries of Philadelphia. We are literally ‘one click’ away from connecting with the ‘disconnected,’ especially those who are still searching or even struggling with their faith.”
Dr. Julie Burkey, who specializes in New Evangelization within the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, believes that the Virtual Age has borne forth many spiritual fruits among the faithful and secular. “We’re providing a plethora of opportunities for the curiosity of faith to boom. You can tell just by the numbers of those participating that the audience has become much wider. You give people an opportunity to open their hearts and minds without pressure at all. It’s not that most people want an invitation, they need an invitation. This is the time for us to encourage individuals to acquaint, or even reacquaint, themselves with the Church.”
Though the social scene has become more virtual, young adults around the country are quickly adjusting to, and reaping benefits from, these online programs and events. While the workload has substantially increased for leaders like Baldassari and Malamood, the blessings that have come about make it all worthwhile. This brings to mind Christ’s Beatitudes and the possibility of adding one more during these extraordinary times: Blessed are they who connect the disconnected, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.
The Young Adult program at The Miraculous Medal Shrine hosts events and programs designed to engage young Catholics in faith, fellowship, and service. Learn more at miraculousmedal.org/faith-communities/young-adults or email Carolina Soares Nemo at firstname.lastname@example.org.