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Catholic Life Education Features Parish Life Youth

St. Benedict’s offers opportunities for young adult growth

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Many young adults find themselves in a dilemma. They are ready to head out into the workplace, but still have idealistic goals in their hearts. Starting a new job might mean compromising the values built up throughout childhood. St. Benedict Parish in Amherst offers a place for those 20- and 30-somethings to learn how to obtain their goals while holding onto their faith.

“We had been building our young adult ministry over the past four years. We would do weekly events. We would do special Masses. We would do some outreach and meet up for coffee,” explained Andrew Pitisi, director of Lifelong Faith Formation and Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the parish. “When the pandemic hit, we were able to rally the troops and populate digital content to continue the spiritual journey for our parish and for ourselves.”

“We got our young adults involved in a lot of our social media outreach during the pandemic. So, we had weekly roundtable chats where we would talk about different parts of the faith like the saints, the Mass, racism, and many different topics. It’s just a panel of four young adults sharing their faith,” added Maria Chomicka, music director, who works with Pitisi to head the young adult group. They’ve also used Facebook to livestream prayer opportunities such as the Stations of the Cross, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Holy Hours.

Things went to a whole new level after parishioner Carol Kostyniak, former secretary of Catholic Education for the Diocese, came to Pitisi with the idea of bringing the Esteem program to the parish. The program deals with mentorship and developing Catholic leaders within the community. This created an offshoot group for Young Adult Professionals. YAP, as it is known, combines professional development with spirituality.

“We thought it could really help accompany young adults and equip them to take on a greater role in parish life,” he said. “I think it’s a very well-rounded curriculum. It has topics like church leadership, ecclesiology, prayer, and spirituality.”

Monthly meetings started up in the Fall. November saw a Strengths Finders workshop. Thirty-five young adults registered to take the inventory test developed by Don Clifton to find in what area they have the greatest potential. Another meeting saw Jeffrey Papia, vice president of Hilbert College, speak on different types of leadership skills and how they relate to Catholicism.

“He tied in professional skills, figuring out which ones were most important, and figuring out how different saints and different people in the Catholic Church have embodied those particular qualities, and how we can, in our professional lives, do more to bring that Catholic attitude into things,” explained Anna Simpson, who attended the program. The program fit right into Simpson’s current point in life. The 30-year-old is considering rejoining the workforce once her toddler daughter is ready for pre-school. The Alden resident takes part in various programs and groups in different parishes.

“I’m the sort of person who always looks for ways of developing myself further, learning more about myself, learning more about tools that I can use to communicate,” she said. “This is one way that I can work on myself as I prepare to get back into the workforce and begin to make connections with people who maybe are working in the area and involved. That can never hurt.”

Even though meetings are socially distanced at the parish, participants can begin networking and get advice from one another with the similar goals. “I think it’s something a lot of young adults are looking for – some kind of guidance in the professional world. They go into fields where you need to have five years of experience to be qualified for a job or you need the right connections. It’s a struggle a lot of people face. So, this group we’re hoping will bridge the gap between successful Catholic leaders in the diocese and young adults who are looking for guidance,” said Chomicka.

“It’s nice to have a network of people in the same phase of life working to build their careers, but also work on building their own skill sets. I think the context of Catholicism gives it that extra layer of meaning, because you can do professional development anywhere. I think framing it within that Catholic mindset gives it a different layer of meaning, because you’re not just doing this for yourself or your own personal goals of becoming fabulously wealthy. You’re doing this because you’re also trying to become a better person and learn how to live your Catholic faith in the professional world,” said Simpson.

True to the Catholic discipline of service, YAP also goes out into the community to volunteer. They sponsored a blood drive in November, and partnered with the St. Vincent de Paul Society to handle the traditional Thanksgiving food drive at St. Benedict’s. “It will be the first time the young adults will take a leadership role in the annual St. Ben’s drive,” said Pitisi.

Pitisi and Chomicka want the young adult group to be very approachable and open to everyone. It is not just for parishioners. “We have people from every walk of life, and we try to do what Pope Francis calls us to do: to accompany them on their spiritual and life journey. And we thought that could take our young adult ministry to the next level,” Pitisi said.

Young adults network as they compare notes on a Clifton Strengths Finders assessment during a Young Adult Professionals meeting at St. Benedict Parish in Amherst. The group meets to learn how to bring their Catholic faith and values into the workplace. Photo courtesy of St. Benedict Parish.

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