Without a doubt, every diocese in the United States would love to engage its young adults more intensely in the Catholic faith.

There are a multitude of reasons — not being made to feel welcome at a parish or the constant moving around to find a job, just to name a few — why this demographic feels disconnected from the Church community.

But there are two young-adult (18-39) groups in the Diocese of Albany — Adirondack Catholic, which formed in 2018, and Capital Region Catholic, which formed during the pandemic — that are bringing the message of the Gospel to their peers.

“These are young disciples truly being commissioned to go out across our Diocese in their regions and inviting others into a personal relationship with Christ,” said Tom Cronin, advisor to the Bishop for Family & Parish Evangelization.

Let’s meet the groups, which both have between 15-20 active members, and see what they have been collaborating on in the Diocese. 

ADIRONDACK CATHOLIC

When Taylor Jarvis, 25, moved from Guilderland to Queensbury for work in 2018, he felt “a great need for young-adult ministry in my life.”

He began to search for community through bulletins, emails and the faith-formation office at Our Lady of the Annunciation Church in Queensbury and what he found were people — James Marra, Genevieve Ermiger and Emily Szelest — just like him. But there was not a structure in place to reach other like-minded young adults, so they formed Adirondack Catholic.

“I don’t think there’s any one thing that leads to our demographic leaving the Church or at least feeling like the Church isn’t giving them what they need,” Jarvis said. “For me, it just seemed like a lack of reaching me on my level. It didn’t seem like there was anything that was really built for me. I saw things for the elderly in the Church and older people and younger people, but it just seemed like there was a gap in ministry for people our age.”

Adirondack Catholic hosts bible studies every first Thursday of the month (both in-person and virtual) and some form of social event, be it virtual or in-person, every third Thursday of the month. Jarvis also has gotten positive responses from parishes the group has connected with.

“Whenever we go to a parish asking if we can use their space or asking a priest if they would like to give a talk, they are always ecstatic about it because they find it difficult to reach our demographic,” Jarvis said. “So for us to come to them is like a dream come true because it bypasses (the question of), ‘What do these young people want?’ We can just tell them what we want and take control over it ourselves with their blessing.”

Ermiger says the group has bulletin announcements in five-to-six local parishes, leaves informational sheets on people’s seats after Adoration and tries to make a point of talking to people in her demographic after Mass.

“I hand them a bulletin and say, ‘I am a face to this organization and we would love for you to be a part of it,’ ” she says. “But more than that, it’s finding out what’s on people’s hearts, where are they at with Jesus and the Gospel and living it ... personal outreach is very important for young-adult ministry.”

Jarvis added other than community there is one crucial, and necessary, element in the outreach.

“I think what young people need is authentic Catholicism because community will become a side effect of that,” he said. “If we live Catholicism the way it is intended to be lived, then community will follow; following the actual teachings of the Church and not being afraid to lose people based on things that are difficult to understand or teachings that aren’t popular. We shouldn’t be afraid to believe in what we are supposed to believe in.”

CAPITAL REGION CATHOLIC

Angelo Russo, 31, one of the founders of Capital Region Catholic along with her husband, Patrick, 34, and Nathan Levine, 32, agrees with Jarvis about the importance of community.

“It’s important to meet people where they are in their faith and be able to communicate that and it is not a matter of watering down the Gospel, in fact it is a matter of absolutely not doing that,” Russo said. “It is a matter of presenting it in a fashion that people can connect with. And in that way, that can help people resonate deeper and have a deeper relationship with one another and with God through that and grow together. And when you don’t have that community, you feel disconnected.”

Levine said that is why Capital Region Catholic was formed.

“There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of Catholics, practicing Catholics, in our age group in this area,” Levine said. “They don’t meet each other, they never encounter each other ... which means people are never really able to truly and fully express themselves to others. So by forming these fellowship groups, we are able to get people to meet people ... and allow the Holy Spirit to work through people in ways it normally can’t.”

The group was started last year during the pandemic with the guiding principle of Hebrews 10:25: Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the day approaching.

They meet every Wednesday through Zoom at 6 p.m., for a fellowship dinner followed by prayer, Gospel discussion and a discussion topic suggested by a group member. After, the group plays online social bonding Jackbox games, which provide “additional opportunities for fellowship,” Russo said.

Russo added fellowship opportunities arise by just seeing what parishes need.

“You reach out to one parish and say, ‘How can we collaborate with you?’ ” Russo said, “and they say, ‘We are great at providing this to our parishioners but we are not great at providing this other thing, can you help us create a program for that?’ And in doing so that is another way to connect with parishes. Because we are not linked to any particular parish exclusively allows us the freedom to serve and connect with whomever a little more holistically.”

COLLABORATION

Both groups attend each other’s events and “share the same mission of revitalizing the faith in the young-adult community in this Diocese of Albany,” Russo said.

“We cross pollinate with each other’s groups all the time,” Jarvis said. “People who frequent Capital Region Catholic also frequent Adirondack Catholic. Whatever our efforts are, tend to overlap.”

One of the major young-adult collaborations coming up next month is the weekly Zoom event “33 Days of Merciful Love,” from April 18-May 16. This six-week event will culminate with a special in-person consecration service on Pentecost Sunday at the Church of St. Vincent de Paul on May 23, at 6:30 p.m. Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger and Father Michael E. Gaitley, author of “33 Days to Merciful Love,” will be two of the featured speakers during the Zoom event, which will be joined by groups from St. Vincent de Paul and St. Pius X Parish.

“The heart of why we are doing everything is to know God and know Jesus,” Ermiger said, “to be in union with His spirit and we just want as many people as possible to know Him.”

To learn more about Adirondack Catholic, email them at adkcatholic@gmail.com, or go to facebook.com/adkcatholic or instagram at www.instagram.com/adkcatholic. To learn more about Capital Region Catholic, email them at capitalregioncatholic@gmail.com or head to facebook.com/capitalregioncatholic.