January 2017 Evangelization Exchange – Edens

Young Adult Evangelization & Ministry

Fr. Bill Edens, CSP


Portland, Oregon, and the Northwest in general, is a land of “nones.” That is, a large concentration of people with no religious affiliation. As figurative sons and daughters of the pioneers who came on the Oregon Trail they are a breed of independents who find their spirit in the great outdoors. Vast Douglas Fir forests form sanctuaries. The rugged Oregon coast and the volcanic mountains provide sublime beauty.

These geographic features are the result of powerful tectonic and erosive forces. There are sociological forces, too. Young adults flock to the Portland area from other parts of the country. It is a place of great creativity, in food, beer, wine, technology, and homegrown music.

Using social media is a must for connecting with young adults. We mainly used Facebook and Meetup.com to promote a wide-spread invitation to our Friday night “Open Sanctuary,” with Praise and Adoration, followed by a visit to a local pub.

From the very beginning we attracted fifteen or twenty young adults from all over the city. But we connected with very few in our local neighborhood, despite the fact that it is a young adult mecca on the Southeast side of Portland.

How would I start the young adult ministry if I could do it over again? I would go door to door visiting earlier and more extensively. I would hold contests for singing and dancing in the bars. I would start the “Aha” interviews right away. I would make the regular Young Adult event a mass, with music, in the evening.

Having visited the Society of Saint John formation program at Saint Patrick’s parish in NW Portland, I learned a lot that would eventually change the way I do things. Now, I would create a spiritual formation program for young adults, featuring a weekly meeting with a simple progression through Catholic themes, a meal, and communal prayer and live sacred music.

I would provide surprises that delight them. Barbeque hot dogs and s’mores at the back of the church after Praise and Adoration. Go to sing Karaoke at one of the local bars. Take the group to learn to dance Bachata at Aztec Willey’s.

And of my current practice would I keep and develop? I would continue doing one on one meetings over coffee to build spiritual friendships.

Here is one of the relationships that developed this way. Danny R. surprised me one day by the research he has done. He is a graduate student at Portland State University in the field of ESL and he wants to help priests who have come from another country and culture to serve in the Archdiocese of Portland. There is no program in the Portland Archdiocese to address cultural change and language skills for priests.

I arranged for Danny to meet with Father Ricky Manalo, CSP, who leads the COPIM workshops in southern and northern California. The Cultural Orientation Program for International Ministers helps priests adjust to their new pastor, their new parish, and their new culture. Danny began listing off the programs available throughout America for this cultural orientation. Studying the US Bishops’ recent document, “Guidelines for Receiving Pastoral Ministers in the United States,” Danny is planning to do his masters’ thesis on a pilot program for helping international priests cross into American culture. I arranged for him to meet the Vicar for Clergy, Fr. Todd M. Danny wants to get in on the ground floor for a development of a COPIM for Portland archdiocese.

Previous Essays in this series

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4