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Young Adults - Beyond the Numbers

Young Adults - Beyond the Numbers

By Ben Rouleau, Young Adult Coordinator

As an engineer, I gravitate to the quantifiable elements of coordinating the SMG Young Adults group (for those in their 20s and 30s) – how many attendees can we expect at a particular event, how many small group Bible studies do we need, how many folks we have on the email list and what our weekly email open rate is, etc. There are practical reasons for this – we need to know how much food to provide, the number of small groups to facilitate the best discussion, and how to communicate most effectively. But our God is not a God of numbers or calculations or cold hard logic. He is a God of Love, unconditional love for each of His unique creations at all stages of their lives. As Christ illustrates in the Parable of the Lost Sheep, He cares deeply about every one of us, especially those who go astray – as we all do at some point!

We hear a lot about the numbers related to the successes of Jesus’s ministry and of the early Church and even the divinely-assisted fishing success of the Apostles, with the quantities of those fed and baptized stretching into the thousands and the number of fish caught being enough to nearly burst the nets (or an incredibly-specific and symbolic 153). So numbers aren’t bad – it’s just that they’re not enough. It’s easy to say “we had 31 people attend Dr. John Joy’s lecture on Modernism” or “Claire’s women’s group has grown to 8 regular members” – it’s a lot harder to ascertain how a talk touched someone’s heart or helped them realize their vocation, or how the heartfelt prayers of young women gathered around a fire on a summer evening were answered by their Heavenly Father.

The intangible and unquantifiable elements of our faith abound, but I want to zero in on two moments, one older and one newer. The first: Cardinal Avery Dulles (1918-2008), raised Presbyterian but agnostic after his time at Harvard, had been reading some of St Augustine’s City of God when he saw a tree beginning to flower by a river on a spring day – after that seemingly-insignificant moment, he never “doubted the existence of an all-good and omnipotent God.” Sometimes God lets the smallest voice deliver the coup-de-grace to our stony hearts. The second: I was with my grandmother when she died in New England early on the morning of Holy Thursday in 2021. I ended up flying back into Madison late that night. Before driving to my house after an exhausting and emotional few days, I stopped by SMG to spend some time before the Altar of Repose. I don’t remember much about that time beyond the quiet, the beauty, the candlelight, and an overwhelming sense of peace. Moments like these cannot be quantified, they cannot be predicted, they cannot be analyzed in Excel (much to my chagrin).

My takeaway after reflecting on the elusiveness of transformative religious experiences is this: continue to offer opportunities for growth in fellowship and devotion to Christ, and pray that the Holy Spirit works through them. At our recent outing to Devil’s Lake State Park, the weather was looking iffy but we had an awesome time and an incredible turnout of over 40 people. What fruit will come from a bunch of young adults praying and hiking and talking and eating together? God only knows. In the meantime, I continue to pray for the Young Adults group and our parish to be guided by the Holy Spirit to do God’s will in the time and place we have been given.

Watch out for some of the activities we will have in the next few months: a game night, a bonfire, a fall fun day, possibly a pilgrimage, and more! Find us on Facebook or on our website to stay in the loop.

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