By ERIKA ANDERSON, Special to the Bulletin | Published June 27, 2014
COLLEGE PARK—Lay young adults may have a better opportunity to influence their peers than clergy and those who work for the Catholic Church, Paulist Father Dave Dwyer told them on the opening night of the 2014 Eucharistic Congress.
And those who attended “Revive!”—the young adult track of the congress—seemed poised and ready to take on the challenge set by the congress theme, “Go and make disciples.”
Father Dwyer is the executive director of Busted Halo, a Paulist media and ministry outreach to Catholics in their 20s and 30s, which includes a daily radio show he hosts on Sirius XM radio. He used “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis’ first apostolic exhortation, to focus his message to the hundreds of young adults who came to the Marriott Gateway hotel June 20 to reflect on their call to evangelize.
“Pope Francis … could give us treatises or philosophical sayings, but instead he chose to focus on our demeanor when we are living our faith,” Father Dwyer said.
He wants us to “spread the good news marked with joy,” he said.
“And I don’t know if you know this, but Catholics can occasionally be lacking in joy,” Father Dwyer joked. “But we should be evangelizing through joy. It’s supposed to be infectious and catching. It’s supposed to make people say ‘what’s up with that?’ It’s not just about being really pious and keeling when we pray. That’s fine—but let’s do it with joy.”
The papal letter also asks Catholics to become evangelical in their faith—to reach out of comfort zones and to minister to those who need it most.
“Even as a pastor, it can be way easier to play to the folks in the front row—the daily Mass Catholics. But we should be focusing on the people who are not coming,” Father Dwyer said.
“There are times that, because of the uniform that I wear, people are going to shut me down and not even hear what I’m saying. That gives you way better access than I have. That makes you better missionaries than I can be. We have to go forth out of our comfort zones. All of us are called to be missionaries,” Father Dwyer said.
Mercy is a “big theme” for Pope Francis, Father Dwyer said.
“When we’re walking through our days and someone annoys us, do we have it in us to show them patience and love? Mercy isn’t a gift that needs to be squandered. It has to be shared. Dowe have an endless desire to show mercy?”
Much like on his radio show, Father Dwyer’s talk was relatable, funny and full of wisdom. He used real-life examples, coupled with the words of the Holy Father to make his point. Pope Francis, he said, has called the Church to return to the basics.
“If all we as Catholic faithful do is just throw out doctrine, who’s going to listen to that? But when we have a gathering like this—a gathering of 30,000 people around the Eucharist, that is getting back to the basics,” he said. “First, people must encounter the basic teaching of the Catholic Church, which is Christ the Lord.”
“What could be more simple than the exchange at the time of Communion? ‘The Body of Christ; Amen.’ It’s all there. It’s not philosophy. It’s not pages and pages of philosophical treatises. It’s simple. And that’s what Pope Francis is saying.”
Simple gestures can touch others
Though it isn’t always easy to live our faith the way we are called, there are small ways to accomplish it.
“It’s challenging to always be joyful—to evangelize and to think that my Catholic faith isn’t just for me. To be merciful and to offer the hug that the father gave to his prodigal son—you can do that for someone else,” he said. “These things may not be easy, but they’re simple. And they’re things that you can do every day.”
Pope Francis, Father Dwyer said, is calling all Catholics to be joyful, evangelical and merciful.
The evening included Eucharistic adoration, led by Father Michael Silloway, with music provided by EMA, an international group of musicians from St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Smyrna.
Bishop Luis R. Zarama, Atlanta auxiliary bishop, dropped by to remind the young adults to keep Christ part of all their activities—not just the things they do on Sundays.
“Jesus likes to laugh with you and be a part of your conversation,” Bishop Zarama said. “Remember that when you are going out with your friends and you have a beer in your hand, invite Jesus to be a part of your celebration. That is the new evangelization—when we invite Jesus to be a part of our daily lives.”
Many young adults attended “Revive!” for the first time. Lesley Guyot, a parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Atlanta, said she heard about it at her parish and wanted to join others to share her faith.
“I kept hearing that it was this really big event that Catholics attended from all over,” she said. “I enjoyed myself. I really appreciated Father Dave breaking down Pope Francis’ words in a way we can relate to in our own lives.”
Lourdes parishioner Janni Buggs said Father Dwyer’s talk encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone.
“We’ve been really trying to connect with more Catholics in our community,” she said. “He made me feel even stronger about evangelizing and approaching other people about my faith.”
Rachel Cannata, from St. Benedict Church in Johns Creek, believes that her generation has a lot to do to make up for past hurts of the Church.
“It was a great reminder to spread the truth through joy,” she said.
Giuliano Mion, also from the St. Benedict young adult group, attends the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega. He said Father Dwyer’s talk motivated him to reach out to new people with compassion and interest.
“I think you can get stuck in your comfort zone—your small groups. That’s who you know and that’s who you want to be around. But this made me want to get out and meet people who aren’t Catholic—or people who say they used to be Catholic,” Mion said.
“I think we have the ability to really make them see that the Church is about so much more than their past hurts—and what’s awaiting them is even better,” he said.
Look for Father Dave Dwyer at bustedhalo.com, an online magazine for spiritual seekers. He’s also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bustedhalo and Twitter https://twitter.com/bustedhalo.