By JANE WILSON, Special to the Bulletin | Published September 7, 2006
Outside, the thunder boomed and the lightning flashed, but no amount of rain could dampen the enthusiasm of the more than 300 participants who were gathered inside Our Lady of Mercy High School Aug. 5 for the archdiocesan jubilee celebration of the Office of Young Adult Ministry.
With typical energy, a Mass and summer picnic had been planned for the event, but coordinators had not counted on the summer thunderstorm that sprang up that afternoon. Although the picnic had to be moved to the school cafeteria, spirits were high and participants enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate the jubilee with Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, worship together and join other young people for fellowship and fun. The timing was especially important since many young adults were in the midst of preparations to return to college.
Young adult Alison Lloyd said she was excited to hear Archbishop Gregory speak and to demonstrate the presence of young adults in the archdiocese. Sarah Sheldon, 24, was also enthusiastic about celebrating the history of the archdiocese.
“It’s interesting that we’re celebrating the jubilee, since it [the diocese] was started before we were born,” Sheldon said.
Archbishop Gregory focused on the future in his homily, however, telling the group that “as you appear with your bright faces and youthful energy, I can hear the Father’s voice speaking clearly to this local Church—these are my sons and daughters—do not be afraid of tomorrow!”
He later added that the “Archdiocese of Atlanta has a very hopeful future in you and because of you… Yesterday and tomorrow come together this evening, and they fit just fine.”
The archbishop compared the story of Christ’s Transfiguration to the situation of many young adults. He noted that the story shows that Jesus was very much like many young adults today in the way they seek a sense of belonging, understanding and companionship. Christ shared the experience with a few of his disciples in just the way that many share their lives with their own friends, the archbishop said.
Most importantly, the archbishop emphasized the importance of the young adults to the future of the archdiocese, stating that “our young adult community here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta provides us with that same type of assurance, as yesterday and tomorrow come together within you and make us all feel secure. You young women and men are filled with promise—even when you yourselves are not quite as confident of your futures as you might wish to be.”
The picnic was one of several events taking place across the archdiocese to celebrate the jubilee. YAM director Dorothy Polchinski was elated that Archbishop Gregory had chosen YAM to be a part of that celebration, an acknowledgment that young adults have a lot to offer the archdiocese.
The picnic “is hopefully the beginning of an annual gathering of young adults throughout the archdiocese with the archbishop,” Polchinski said. “Today’s event is a joyous occasion because it is a joint effort of many groups.”
The multilingual Mass was especially planned to reflect the cultural diversity of the archdiocesan young adult population. The Our Lady of Mercy gymnasium was transformed, with a black cloth and an impressive painting of the crucifix making a simple stage into an altar. Organized by Deacon Lloyd Sutter, who leads the Office of Religious Education and Faith Formation for the archdiocese, and YAM program coordinator Lisa Eberhardt, the liturgy included enthused participants who offered the readings and petitions in English, Spanish, French and Vietnamese.
The dynamic music was an inspiring part of the Mass, an upbeat blend of English and Spanish thanks to musical coordinators Rich Dittus and Elmer Menjivar.
The presence of the Hispanic community was particularly important to several participants. Carla and Diana, two young adults, were excited to represent the Hispanic community of YAM.
“We should become more familiar with each other because although we are different, we have the same beliefs in the Church,” Carla said, while Diana added that they are looking for more projects to draw the different groups together.
After Mass, YAM members got the chance to come together, chat, enjoy more music and eat a barbecue dinner prepared by On the Deck, a popular local college ministry outreach group.
Bernie Sotola, 26, said that the YAM community offers the opportunity to create life-long relationships.
“Friendships from high school and college might fall by the wayside, but these friendships last longer,” Sotola said.
This sentiment was echoed by Patricia Serna, also 26, who said that it is “great to be around people with the same values and beliefs and to have people you can turn to when you need them.”
Open to anyone aged 18-40, YAM is dedicated to reaching out to the young adult community and promoting the Church within that community. As the diocese celebrates its 50th year, YAM is marking its 10-year anniversary. A semi-formal dinner dance is planned for Nov. 4 to celebrate that YAM is “10 Years Young and Still Strong.”
Polchinski stresses that this is a special time to get involved with YAM and encourages anyone interested to check out the many activities and groups designed to appeal to the wide variety of young adults in the archdiocese. One of the most popular events is the “Theology on Tap” speaker series, which will resume in September, which offers a different topic and speaker in the relaxed atmosphere of a local bar each Wednesday.
For further information visit the YAM Web site at www.yam.org, or contact Polchinski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (770) 770-993-5245.