Young adults invited to service opportunity at Steubenville of the Rockies

Moira Cullings

The Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries is seeking young adults for a volunteer opportunity during the annual Steubenville of the Rockies conference this June.

“This is a way to invite young adults into a greater leadership role in the Church and contrast the whole consumer attitude with giving,” said Mary McGeehan, Young Adult Ministry Specialist for the Archdiocese of Denver.

“We want you here, we want you to serve with us,” she said. “You’re invited to still participate and serve, just in a different way as you mature in your faith.”

The volunteer group, called Mercy Squad, will participate in a pre-conference retreat from June 19-21, and then take on their volunteer tasks during the conference from June 21-23.

The pre-conference retreat will include opportunities for adoration, confession and reflections led by Father Ryan O’Neill, Vocations Director for the archdiocese. The group’s tasks during the conference include welcoming retreatants, organizing registration packets, helping during meals and guiding groups as they walk to events.

The Mercy Squad is ideal for college students, as well as young adults who have summers off or are able to take off work.

Michelle Peters, Director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministries for the archdiocese, explained the importance of giving young adults opportunities designed specifically for them.

“It is important that they are given the opportunity to exercise the gifts that they have been given,” she said. “Young adults often look at different parishes and groups before finding one that they settle in.

“By offering the young adults leadership roles in different areas, they will feel a part of the community and will be more active.”

Inspired by Mother Teresa and St. Therese of Lisieux, the Mercy Squad will be in charge of “little acts that make a big difference in helping people feel welcomed and loved,” said McGeehan.

“We’re really wanting to make Mercy Squad a cohort that can emphasize hospitality and love and gift of presence,” she said.

The group will also be “prayer warriors” for the retreatants “through intercessory prayer during adoration or while they’re in the long line for confession,” McGeehan added.

“And having hallway guides that not only are directing them, but also praying and interceding for them in ways the participants might not even realize.”

Peters emphasized the impact those actions can have.

“The success of a conference requires a lot of details — many of which go unnoticed but would be greatly missed if they weren’t there,” she said.

“Steubenville of the Rockies offers our high school students an opportunity to encounter Christ, which can lead to lifelong conversions. The young adults serving at the conference will be helping these high school students have the opportunity to experience a deeper relationship with Christ.”

McGeehan hopes the young adults who join the Mercy Squad will inspire the conference attendees to deepen their faith even more.

“You can be loving God at Steubenville, but to see people a little bit older than you who are still committed to their faith and living it out so much so that they want to do menial tasks and give up their time for them,” she said.

“It’s a good witness of what faith looks like beyond an emotional experience or a spiritual high.”

To apply for the Mercy Squad, visit archden.org/eflm/conferences-retreats/steubenville.

COMING UP: Historical clarity and today’s Catholic contentions

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One of the curiosities of the 21st-century Catholic debate is that many Catholic traditionalists (especially integralists) and a high percentage of Catholic progressives make the same mistake in analyzing the cause of today’s contentions within the Church — or to vary the old fallacy taught in Logic 101, they think in terms of post Concilium ergo propter Concilium [everything that’s happened after the Council has happened because of the Council]. And inside that fallacy is a common misreading of modern Catholic history. The traditionalists insist that everything was fine before the Council (which many of them therefore regard as a terrible mistake); the progressives agree that the pre-Vatican II Church was a stable institution but deplore that stability as rigidity and desiccation.

But that’s not the way things were pre-Vatican II, as I explain at some length and with some engaging stories in my new book, The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform (Basic Books). And no one knew the truth about pre-Vatican II Catholicism better than the man who was elected pope during the Council and guided Vatican II through its last three sessions, St. Paul VI.

On January 25, 1959, Pope John XXIII, thought to be an elderly placeholder, stunned both the Church and the world by announcing his intention to summon the 21st ecumenical council. That night, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini (who would be known as Paul VI four and a half years later), called an old friend. An experienced churchman who had long served Pius XII as chief of staff, Montini saw storm clouds on the horizon: “This holy old boy,” he said of John XXIII, “doesn’t know what a hornet’s nest he’s stirring up.”

That shrewd observation turned out to be spot on –– and not simply because of the Council, but because of the bees and hornets that had been buzzing around the ecclesiastical nest for well over 100 years.

Contrary to both traditionalist and progressive misconceptions, Catholicism was not a placid institution, free of controversy and contention, prior to Vatican II. As I show in The Irony of Modern Catholic History, there was considerable intellectual ferment in the Church during the mid-19th century, involving great figures like the recently-canonized John Henry Newman, the German bishop Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler (grandfather of modern Catholic social thought), and the Italian polymath Antonio Rosmini (praised by John Paul II in the 1999 encyclical, Faith and Reason, and beatified under Benedict XVI). That ferment accelerated during the 25 year pontificate of Leo XIII, who launched what I dub the “Leonine Revolution,” challenging the Church to engage the modern world with distinctively Catholic tools in order to convert the modern world and lay a firmer foundation for its aspirations.

American Catholicism, heavily focused on institution-building, was largely unaware of the sharp-edged controversies (and ecclesiastical elbow-throwing) that followed Leo XIII’s death in 1903. Those controversies, plus the civilization-shattering experience of two world wars in Europe, plus a rapid secularization process in Old Europe that began in the 19th century, set the stage for John XXIII’s epic opening address to Vatican II. There, the Pope explained what he envisioned Vatican II doing: gathering up the energies let loose by the Leonine Revolution and focusing them through the prism of an ecumenical council, which he hoped would be a Pentecostal experience energizing the Church with new evangelical zeal.

John XXIII understood that the Gospel proposal could only be made by speaking to the modern world in a vocabulary the modern world could hear. Finding the appropriate grammar and vocabulary for contemporary evangelization didn’t mean emptying Catholicism of its content or challenge, however. As the Pope insisted, the perennial truths of the faith were to be expressed with the “same meaning” and the “same judgment.” Vatican II, in other words, was to foster the development of doctrine, not the deconstruction of doctrine. And the point of that doctrinal development was to equip the Church for mission and evangelization, for the modern world would be converted by truth, not ambiguity or confusion.

Over the past six and a half years, it’s become abundantly clear that more than a few Catholics, some quite prominently placed, still don’t get this history. Nor do the more vociferous elements in the Catholic blogosphere. Which is why I hope The Irony of Modern Catholic History helps facilitate a more thoughtful debate on the Catholic present and future, through a better understanding of the Catholic past.