By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
Finding meaning and purpose in life, navigating through relationships and understanding the call of social justice are among the topics that will be explored at the Diocese of Trenton’s first-ever young adult conference set for May 4 in St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck. With the theme “Encounter the Light of Christ,” the day-long event will bring together adult Catholics, aged 18-35, to hear noted speakers on faith issues, interact in sharing groups, pray before the Blessed Sacrament and attend Mass as a group.
“The Diocese of Trenton understands the importance of young adults in continuing to build the Kingdom of God,” declared Caridad Barillas, coordinator of young adult ministries. “In this Year of Faith, the emphasis is to reach out to all Catholic young adults that are practicing their faith or not, to meet them where they are. What are their concerns that prevent them from being active in parish life? What opportunities can the parish provide to help in everyday life, and to walk with them in their faith journey?”
The day will begin with registration and coffee at 9:30 a.m. in the parish’s Madonna Hall. Following an opening prayer and remarks, Rich Curran, founder of the Parish Success Group organization, will deliver the keynote address. Curran, a former director of youth ministries for the Dioceses of Plainfield, Ill., and Green Bay, has served as a counselor and outreach worker for abused and neglected children with Catholic Charities in the inner city of Minneapolis, Minn.
The national speaker has been helping teens and adults find meaning and purpose in their lives for more than 15 years with his messages of hope and invitation to embrace the gifts God has given. He and his wife live with their two sons in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Workshops will be offered twice during morning and afternoon sessions will be built on faith issues relevant to today’s young adult Catholics. Matthew Greeley, associate director of communications for the diocese, will examine the call to live strongly in love in “Strengthening Relationships: Tug of War or Tug of Love.” Greeley edits the diocesan Spanish-language newspaper “Peces” as well as serving as an active team member for the television programs “Realfaith TV” and “Cristo Para Todos” and the diocese’s RE:Image film festival. He also brings to his work many years spent in youth ministry.
Social worker Widian Nicola will speak on “Catholic Social Justice.” The native of Palestine is a former program coordinator for the Center for Faith Justice in Lawrenceville and now works with Trenton-based Isles, Inc., a nationally recognized and award winning community development and environmental nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster more self-reliant families in healthy, sustainable communities.
Father Alberto W. Tamayo’s workshop will take a look at “Marriage and Family Life.” Father Tamayo, former secretary to the bishop, serves as administrator in Corpus Christi Parish, Willingboro.
Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Ruth Bolarte will guide participants as they “Encounter Jesus the Person.” Sister Ruth, a native of Peru who came to the U.S. to pursue a vocation to religious life, was the former director of the Catholic Institute for Evangelization in Philadelphia where she was involved with formation of lay leadership and faith formation programs in Spanish. She currently serves as the director of multi-cultural ministries for the Diocese of Metuchen.
At the conclusion of the workshops, attendees will be divided into groups by age and marital status for a sharing session. The groups will reunite into a session led by Curran; closing prayer, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and the opportunity to attend 5 p.m. Mass in St. Mary Church will conclude the day.
Barillas was upbeat about the opportunity for the youth and young adults of the diocese to unite in learning, discussion and prayer. “This is a fun event that we’re excited to bring to [young adults] in the diocese,” she noted.
Greeley echoed her enthusiasm. “As I see it, one of the hopes of this encounter is to bring people together from wherever they’re at in life, to offer them some food for thought and time together as people of faith, and time to simply enjoy being together,” he said. “The diversity of what’s being offered will hopefully ensure that there’s something that will speak to everyone.”
The cost of the conference is $10. A light breakfast and lunch are included.
Young adults can register before April 22 online at www.dioceseoftrenton.org/youngadults, or contact coordinator Caridad Barillas via email at cbaril@dioceseoftrenton. org or 609-403-4175.