Put Out into the Deep

Reaching Out to Millennial Generation

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

Reflecting on World Youth Day 2013 in Brazil and the prospects for the New Evangelization, during the last week I have given a great deal of thought to what World Youth Day can mean to the future of our Church, and, in particular, to our Diocese here in Brooklyn and Queens. The New Evangelization simply means that we will use new methods, develop new zeal and find new evangelizers to bring the message of Jesus Christ to the world in which we live. It is our young people, so called “Generation X,” who will be those to carry out the New Evangelization in the future.

What are these young people like? First, they are completely at home with the Internet, as well as the social media outlets that the Internet has brought to us; namely, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, to name the most familiar. They are completely at home in this computer-dominated world that is now and will be in the future, and they can operate in a virtual reality. Here they face a great challenge for what is virtual when it comes to religion, which is not what is real. However, they must understand the difference.

Another important characteristic of young people is their enthusiasm. They just cannot sit still and are in a constant state of movement. Just look at the entertainment that is out there to choose from and the music they like. Our youth are more than capable of being enthusiastic, but our challenge is to make them enthusiastic about the New Evangelization.

The Millennium Generation is not easy to define. However, it is those born just before the beginning of the Millennium who are growing into their late 20s and 30s who are the young people of today. They make up the bulk of those who will carry the Church forth into the future.

When it comes to the practice of religion, these children of the millennium are very different yet there seems to be a common thread among them all that the practice of organized religion is not something with which they are comfortable. And still, our youth seek spiritual values but do not necessarily equate these values with religious practice. There is a great opportunity to tap this spiritual well spring that they harbor and develop it into a practice of faith.

How can we educate this young generation for the mission of the New Evangelization? This generation must experience what they believe. There are, however, other faith groups who have learned effectively how to incorporate the experience into the formation of their youth. For example, the Mormon faith requires a year of voluntary service for the evangelization of their faith, and each are asked to sacrifice a year of their life for their faith. We all would recognize the black pants and white-shirted young men with ties roaming the streets of Brooklyn and Queens.

It is not only the Mormons, however, who effectively use this method but also many Catholic groups. Many of our religious orders who run colleges and universities also have post-college volunteer experiences, which are very effective in maintaining and expanding the understanding of religious faith and practice, such as Dominican Volunteers USA, Franciscan Community Volunteers, Mercy Volunteer Corps and Vincentian Service Corp, to name a few.

Most recently, I had a visit from a young woman from our diocese who was becoming a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) volunteer. FOCUS is an organization that recruits young college graduates to evangelize on college campuses, both Catholic and non-Catholic. These volunteers must raise their own funds to pay for their yearlong experience. This young woman wrote to me to ask if our diocese could assist her in her journey, and, indeed, we will do so. This peer ministry on college campuses has proven to be a very positive one. All of the education for the New Evangelization will depend on an effective catechesis or communication of the faith in terms that our young people can understand and relate to in their lives. This is the challenge for our Church and diocese here in Brooklyn and Queens today.

We must call our young people to be the New Evangelizers. It is a mission that all share through their baptismal call. There are some, however, who are called to a more complete dedication by giving their lives as priests and religious brothers and sisters. Our own seminarians are a witness to the contribution of the Millennial Generation to the New Evangelization. We need to encourage this generation that will carry forth the faith by any means available to us to understand better their call.

Clearly, we ask our youth to put out into the deep in areas where they may not be very comfortable. We, too, must follow them and meet them in the place where they are present. As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, reminds us, we must go outside of our comfort zone, go to the periphery, go find people where they are at because they are not necessarily in our churches.

In this Year of Faith, we put two specific goals before us here in Brooklyn and Queens of reaching out to those who are on our periphery: the new Chinese immigrants and the New Millennials who are settling in our diocese in great numbers. Before we conclude this Year of Faith, we will announce our efforts for these specific groups. Join me in prayer, as we reach out beyond the limits to where the Lord is calling us.