After breathtakingly beautiful liturgies, the most moving small group discussions, and of course, the best melt-in-your-mouth cookies you can find, I hated when the Catholics on Call Young Adult Conference was over. Thus, it is no surprise that I jumped at the chance to attend the Partner Conference as well. As a CTU student, I didn’t have far to travel to come back for Round Two, so how could I resist?
I was not disappointed. Since beginning as a CTU Master of Divinity student, I am continually learning about the importance of context; we all come from a certain context, and making our best efforts to understand both our own and others’ context is a critical part of doing theology and ministering with our neighbors. The Partner Conference was a wonderful example of err… “those more seasoned in the faith” seeking to understand the context of young adults. It was a blessed time for me to explore my own context as part of the “millennial” generation as well.
During the keynote presentation Sr. Susan Wood noted that Catholic young adults today are not interested in the ideological dichotomy of the past. I immediately thought, “Oh that’s not just me?! Praise the Lord!” In a society where grown men bickering on national television (in other words, the presidential debates) can spark contentious and even cruel Facebook comments, many Catholic young adults want to avoid creating a similarly antagonistic atmosphere in our Church today. This gave me hope—I am not alone in the dream to move beyond dichotomy. This is the gift that my generation can bring to the Church today. Avoiding this dichotomy is a way for young adults to carry on the beauty of the long-standing Catholic tradition of Both/And thinking. [Yes, fellow 20-somethings, I’m challenging us to carry on that torch. Don’t dismiss the faith we’ve inherited by assuming it’s contentious or exclusive. There is so much beauty. Let’s add our gifts to it!].
Reflecting on this trend, combined with being a part of such a sincere conversation and inquiry from all of the participants who work with young adults all over the country, led me to a profound realization: the call to mutual humility for young adults and our predecessors. The Partner participants were so eager and willing to learn about my context, to learn about me and my fellow young adults. They witnessed to me a humble and sincere faith that they desperately wanted to pass on out of love. And while we certainly talked about “the church that young adults want,” we all agreed it would be an error to base a church on anyone’s “wants.” And even when the “wants” of young adults are gospel-filled calls like community and service, that in no way negates how much we have to learn from the previous generation who felt those calls first, and who have lived them out in various and beautiful ways. A disposition of generosity goes a long way, whatever our differences may be, age or otherwise. This mutual call of the generations to humility will help us all avoid another type of dichotomy- one not divided by a conservative/liberal spectrum, but a generational one.
I learned so much about the gifts of my own context and the previous generations’ context through participating in the Partner Conference. My heart was on fire with the sentiment of “Let’s do this together!” God is up to something good. Let’s let God work by celebrating our differences and using the gifts and calls of our varied generational contexts.