Once a month, the pews of St. Patrick’s Church in Washington are filled with young adults eager for prayer, community and deeper communion with Christ. They are there for Eucharistic Adoration and each shares at least two things in common: being a young adult and seeking Christ.
This search has led to Christ in the City, a group formed to bring more opportunities for spiritual growth to young adults in Washington.
Christ in the City started two years ago at the prompting of Father Robert Panke, Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Washington. After speaking with others involved in young adult ministry, Father Panke recognized a lack of activities for young adults, especially those that focus on prayer life.
“Our focus was not on social activities or even catechesis, but on deepening relationships with Jesus Christ…. The most profound way we can experience Christ is through the Holy Eucharist,” said Father Panke. “It is very simple and at the same time very profound.”
Father Panke said he is constantly reminded of the deep thirst for Christ among young adults. He said the church has to provide more avenues where they can grow in their faith.
Christ in the City provides the opportunity for young adults to worship through Eucharistic Adoration once a month. At each hour-long service, those in attendance pray in silence before the Blessed Sacrament, hear a homily, sing and go to confession.
The young adults at Christ in the City’s adoration seek something deeper than a social life.
“There is a misconception that young adults are only looking for a social scene. There is a hunger and thirst for spiritual fulfillment,” said Krystyn Schmerbeck.
According to Thérèse Bermpohl, Director of the Catholic Newman Center at George Washington University, young adults today are coming from a culture that doesn’t have silence and doesn’t know how to pray. She said this is why there is such a need for young adult spiritual outlets.
“Young people today are in a world of constant noise. They are hungering for silence, prayer and unity. These young adults are the future of our church. We must offer them more spiritually,” said Bermpohl.
Christ in the City’s goal is to provide opportunity for spiritual growth by putting Christ at the center. Those who started the group found that there were few opportunities for young adults to come together in community for prayer.
Many young adults have a chance to grow in their faith through high school youth groups and campus ministry programs, only to then feel a lack of community when entering the adult work force.
“I need community,” said Schmerbeck. “This is the one time in my life when I am not in a family unit. Ever since I came to DC I have been looking for a young adult community so I was excited to learn of Christ in the City. There is not always a young adult contingency at the parish level.”
Father Panke stressed that Christ in the City does not intend to take young adults away from their parishes, but instead to inspire them to go back to their parishes with renewed vigor.
“Our diocese has been supportive of this effort and we hope this work shows that more diocesan projects are needed to support parish groups,” he said. “It is important that young adults spearhead these initiatives. They have an incredible amount of energy, enthusiasm and competency.” Father Panke said that parishes need to see what young adults bring and how much they can add to parish life.
Father Panke said that young adults from Christ in the City have sponsored other activities too.
In the past year, Christ in the City organized an Advent Day of Reflection as well as a Lenten Pilgrimage. For summer they planned a hike and outdoor Mass at Harper’s Ferry, WV, and possibly a pilgrimage to Medjugorje.
“Anyone can do this,” he said. “Young adults are often an untapped resource for evangelization in the diocese and they have a strong desire to grow in faith. They just need the direction and resources to do it.”