CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Catholic University sophomore Isaiah Burroughs prays with passersby during a May 21 Light the City event at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.
CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Catholic University sophomore Isaiah Burroughs prays with passersby during a May 21 Light the City event at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.
In his 2015 pastoral letter, Being Catholic Today: Catholic Identity in an Age of Challenge, Cardinal Wuerl spoke of “the emergence of a youthful generation whose faith is refreshingly vibrant.” The Archdiocese of Washington has a special opportunity to engage with this “youthful generation,” as people in their 20s and 30s make up 40% of the city of Washington and 30% of the area that the archdiocese serves, based upon data from the 2010 census. Over the past 10 years, Washington has seen the greatest growth in young adult population of any city in America.

Young adults bring energy to the community and the church, but they also have different needs, due to the fact that they move around often, are still developing their careers, and in some cases are getting married and starting families.

“It is the most transient population, making the biggest decisions of life often without a rudder…to bring authentic discernment,” said Jonathan Lewis, the Director of Young Adult Ministry and Evangelization Initiatives for the archdiocese.

In response to this need, there are many groups and events throughout the archdiocese that bring together young adults to pray, serve and build community.

The oldest event, the “7 Church Walk,” began 13 years ago and occurs annually on the day before Palm Sunday. Young adults do an urban pilgrimage to seven churches in Washington, saying different prayers in each one. Each year has a different theme, and this past year was the spiritual works of mercy.

Another event that brings young adults together to pray is Light the City. On these evenings, which occur every few months, young adults gather downtown at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle before going out onto surrounding sidewalks and inviting people to come into the church to pray. At the most recent Light the City on May 21, the event began with an exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, presided over by Cardinal Wuerl.

“It is very clear that Cardinal Wuerl has a great care for young adults,” said Lewis. “He has been very generous with his time to be present to young adults.”

The archdiocese also hosts “Theology on Tap” 12 times per year, broken up into different series. They are currently in the middle of the summer series. This summer’s series takes place on the rooftop of the Catholic Information Center in downtown Washington, which provides a picturesque view. It begins with a happy hour, followed by two talks and Q&A.

For those who wish to live out their faith through serving others, there is an annual “DCCatholic Day of Service.” This past year, more than 300 volunteers served at about 15 sites. Afterward, they met up for lunch to reflect upon their experience.

While the DCCatholic Day of Service only happens once a year, parish-based young adult groups have regular service projects. For example, young adults from St. Matthew the Apostle volunteer with a youth transitional program through Catholic Charities. They assist youth between the ages of 18 and 24 with career development, such as interview prep.

“It is a fun and rewarding experience because you are looking eye to eye with the people you are serving and getting to know them,” said Carolyn Wait, a young adult who volunteers with that program.

Parish-based communities like this have been growing in recent years. Currently, the archdiocese has more parish-based young adult groups than ever before, with 17 in Washington alone.

“People are looking to connect to a community, not just go to events,” Lewis said, adding that parish-based groups allow them to do that.

However, many parishes outside of Washington do not have a high enough density of young adults to create a sustainable young adult ministry. As a result, regional groups have begun to form within the past three years to provide different opportunities for fellowship. These groups exist for Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Charles County, St. Mary’s County and Prince George’s County.

“[These groups] are important because I realize we aren’t made to do it alone,” said Brad Dworak, who is involved with Silver Spring Catholic and the young adult community at St. Dominic. “We are made to live life in a supportive community environment.”

(To learn more about young adult events across the D.C. area, go online to  DCCatholic.org, where you can sign up for a weekly e-newsletter, or on social media, go to  Facebook.com/DCCatholic, or follow @DCCatholic on Twitter.)