I couldn’t resist. I found a way to come back to the Partner Conference yet again. After attending the Catholics on Call conference in 2012 as a participant, I then attended the following three Partner Conferences while an MDiv student at CTU. Between the beautiful liturgies and the excellent conference speakers, I have always felt encouraged and edified as a young adult minister-in-training, not-so-stealthily spying on these vocation ministers and other young adult ministry coordinators talking about ministry with young adults. This year was different though. I no longer was just a CoC alum trying to soak up more (goodness) and trying to hear Dominic and crew play my favorite song at Morning Prayer (“The Rising Sun.” Best. Ever.). While still a young adult who is not-so-stealthily keeping my older adult colleagues accountable in their conversations about young adults, I am now in full-time ministry as a Pastoral Associate, and as such, I am the young adult ministry coordinator at my parish. I had a reason to come back to the Partner Conference again. Woohoo! And three months into my new position, the conference couldn’t have come at a better time.
It was clarifying, grounding, and energizing, just what I needed during a time of transition into full-time parish ministry.
First, it was clarifying. Dr. Cahalan clearly guided us to think about our definitions of ministry, discipleship, and vocation. As we think about guiding young adults and all those we minister with to understand their vocations and whether that could include a vocation to ministry, we have to know what those things are. Dr. Cahalan claims the unpopular opinion that not all the baptized are called to ministry. The call of the baptized Christian is to discipleship. And all disciples have a vocation, many vocations in fact. For some disciples, their vocation is to ministry and ministry is the call to lead disciples. It was clarifying for us in ministry to be reminded of this. How are we encouraging those we minister to, to be better disciples (followers, worshipers, witnesses, neighbors, forgivers, prophets, and stewards)? Often, especially in parishes, we’re just trying to get people “more involved.” Being involved at church does not make a disciple.
Second, the conference was grounding. In Dr. Cahalan’s talks, she kept touching on so many topics that reminded me who I am, why I do what I do, and Who did/does the calling. In my time of transition, trying to figure out what the heck my role as a Pastoral Associate is, I was reminded of who I am (a disciple called to follow in the way of Jesus), what one of my vocations is (ministry: a call to lead and help other disciples), and that it is Love who has wooed, nudged, and relentlessly recharged my spirit to answer this calling. How incredibly helpful that was in the midst of a season of navigating a new community, a parish full of active ministries, and my own personal struggle figuring out who I am as woman called to ministry in our Catholic Church.
Lastly, the Partner Conference was energizing in many ways, but one way stands out: Dr. Cahalan’s language around vocation and calling. She spoke of the fear and anxiety that my fellow young adults feel around vocation (and I admit to being intimately familiarly with these things), but she then noted how young adults are way more on track than we give ourselves credit for. We are finding our people, discerning our gifts, and discovering our dreams. Trying things out is not an error, but part of the process. Language of vocation being “cultivated,” our lives “unfolding,” hearing the voice of God as “nudging,” and discovering calling as “by” “to” “from,” and “for,” were all gifts to this anxious young adult minister. They point to the mystery of our God, who is the source of all discipleship, vocation, and ministry. The one who nurtures our lifetime of callings and who calls us always back to God.
I am so thankful I found a way to come back to the Partner Conference. It was clarifying, grounding, and energizing as a minister, who happens to also be a young adult.