Archbishop says church ministries should reflect realities of life

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By MATTHEW BECK

“I used to be a Focus missionary, and my faith looked different with a lot more time for personal prayer, adoration and daily Mass. Now, I’m a parent of two young children, and my prayer life is much different. Many days end with, ‘Thank God the day is over,’ and that’s the reality of my prayer life,” explained a young mom at October’s archdiocesan gathering with Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne at St. Michael Church in Palmer.

She and her husband went on to share about the ways their family lives out the Catholic faith, and the realities of how it is often challenging to make it through an entire celebration of the Mass without one of the children crying and having to be taken out of the church, in order to not distract others.

The conversation for the evening revolved around how the Catholic faith is lived out and looks different between individuals and groups of people. The theme for the evening discussion was, “One Size Doesn’t Fit All.”

Archbishop Etienne framed the discussion in light of the Gospel of John, chapter 17: “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”

The archbishop spoke of the importance in today’s world that Catholics should strive to be united together in Christ, amidst their differences.

“Such unity gives a credible witness of Christ for others in need of mercy, forgiveness and love,” he said.

He pointed out that Catholics have been invited by Pope Francis to share their faith through acts of charity towards others in the circumstances and realities of daily life.

The evening discussion was geared toward young adults, ages 18 to 35 years old. College students, professionals, military service men and women, married couples, dating couples, single people, parents and a couple older people were all on hand.

Discussion on how people live out their faith reflected the diversity of the group. A college student shared how important it is to connect with other Catholics on campus. A newlywed shared how meaningful it is to have close friends who are also strong Catholics. One young man shared how working with the people at work enables him to put the principles of his Catholic faith into action daily.

There was general agreement that the ways Catholics experience and live out their faith will change as they journey through life. This in turn should be reflected in how the church provides support and guidance along the way through the sacraments and the parish community.

The conversation wrapped up with Archbishop Etienne encouraging the young adults to remain faithful to the core teachings of the faith and to persevere through the challenges and struggles of life. He said the Mass is meant to unite the faithful. Furthermore, he reemphasized the importance of recognizing Christ in others, appreciating and loving them for who they are.

The next young adult gathering with Archbishop Etienne is set for Nov. 28 at St. Anthony Church in Anchorage from 7 to 9 p.m. That gathering will begin with adoration, followed by a discussion on how to faithfully journey through Advent towards the coming of Christ at Christmas.

For more information about upcoming young adult gatherings, contact Matthew Beck, archdiocesan director of Youth & Young Adult Ministry at or (907) 297-7734.

The writer is Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministry with the Archdiocese of Anchorage and author of “Blessings and Prayers for New Parents.”


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