Over 160 young adults and others from across the island of Ireland gathered on Saturday 22 June last for the inaugural ‘Intentional Young Adult Ministry’ gathering in Clongowes Wood College, Clane Co Kildare. Into the deep, the theme for the ‘Building Intentional Young Adult Ministry in Ireland’ gathering was arranged by a Young Adult Ministry Working Group supported by Bishop Fintan Gavin of Cork and Ross and chair of the Bishops’ Council for Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development, and council member Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ of Down and Connor.  The event comprised participant-led activities, reflections and the celebration of Mass.

Those in attendance included lay youth leaders and those involved in youth ministry; keynote speaker and author Father Stephen Wang, of the Archdiocese of Westminster who spoke on the theme: ‘The Heart of Catholic Young Adult Ministry’; Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh; Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly SMA of Cashel and Emly; Bishop Ray Browne of Kerry; Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore; Bishop Martin Hayes of Kilmore; Bishop Niall Coll of Ossory; Bishop Paul Dempsey, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Dublin; Bishop Gavin, Bishop McGuckian, and other clergy. 

In addition to Bishop Hayes, the Diocese of Kilmore was represented by Olivia Conaty, Meabh McDonald and Evon Smith.

Speaking notes of Bishop Fintan Gavin
On behalf of the Irish Bishops, I offer a very sincere and warm word of welcome to each of you and to thank you for being here today for what I believe is a very important moment for Young Adult Ministry in the Irish Church.
I welcome our Leaders in Young Adult Ministry and I welcome in a particular way the young adults who are joining us in such great numbers.  We are a wonderfully diverse group – ordained, religious and laity, old and young, professionals and students, men and women  – all sharing  in the one Baptism; this is an important synodal gathering for the Irish Church.  I have really been looking forward to this gathering.  It is good to be here. 
We have just heard the wonderful Gospel passage of Jesus calling Peter.  I am always fascinated at how Peter, an experienced fisherman, despite knowing that the chance of catching fish was zero, listened to Jesus.  A carpenter from Nazareth had some nerve telling an experienced fisherman what to do.  Why did Peter respond to Jesus request?
Something must have moved in Peter.  Did he notice a prompting inviting him to trust?  An inkling to try something new?  A stirring that said – even though this seems absurd – to have a go.  Peter’s willingness to listen to the inner promptings and to try has a lot to teach us. 
The context of Youth Ministry has changed so much; as a young person you have to stand out from your peers, and the culture does not support you as it did in the past.  When we think of the small numbers of young people in the Church in Ireland today we could well feel despair, desolation – like we have fished all night long and caught nothing. 
That is not the truth however – there have been many great initiatives animated by Catholic Youth Ministry in Ireland, there are groups like Youth 2000, Alpha, Sycamore, Lourdes Pilgrimages, projects inspired by movements and religious.  And just as Peter called others to help him haul in the catch – we need the collective movement of all of us so that we as a Church move forward into God’s plenitude.  The best always remains ahead of us – if we are prepared to respond together. 
I am reminded of an experience I had recently in relation to one of our young adult faith gatherings in University College Cork.  We were still setting up and I could see a young woman come to the door look around and then move back towards the exit.  I went over to her, she apologised and said she was too early and she would come back I said not at all.  She explained how she had asked a few of her friends to come but none did.  She was studying in a neighbouring college/university and from a parish out the county in West Cork so she didn’t know anybody – she admitted she was going to leave again when she came to the door.  I introduced her to a couple of our young people and by the end of the even she was swapping number with them and she was connected!
After the synod on young people Pope Francis wrote Christus Vivit.  In this letter he sums up young adult ministry as involving “two main courses of action.  One is outreach, the way we attract new young people to an experience of the Lord.  The other is growth, the way we help those who have already had that experience to mature in it” (CV 209).
Intentional Outreach is our first critical focus. Jesus’ command to Peter to cast his nets into deeper waters is our inspiration.  
Each young person needs to be befriended, trust built up, invited into an encounter with Christ and followed up afterwards.
We are called to go beyond our traditional boundaries and meet young adults where they are – both physically and spiritually.  We are called to go to new shores and to connect with people one on one. 
We need to find ways of presenting Christ as a person alive, that gives us our joy and our hope, as good news in a culture where so often Christ, faith and the Church are presented as a burden rather than something that gives life and meaning in a challenging and difficult world.  Growth must also be intentional.  Growth enables young adults to mature in their faith, empowering them to become active participants in the Church’s mission.  Remember that!
Peter had to grow before he became a ‘Fisher of men.’
The whole Irish Church needs to grow – not just Young Adults. We need a rigorous intellectual formation that challenges us and provides formation in Catholic tradition which is broad and deep, and not frozen in any one historical expression.  If we are intentional about our growth, we will find that we build disciples for our time. 

But what is this growth for?  It is to prepare us for service within what Pope Francis calls “God’s holy faithful people.”  Our relationship with Christ, our growing as intentional disciples is so that we are the Mission of the Church to a hurting and broken world for the rest of our lives, bringing hope and healing – bring Christ. 
We need young adults as protagonists who are formed for the very mission of animating our local parishes – bringing their commitment, talent, and love of Christ to the local community where they choose to settle down and build their careers and families.

As we reflect together on Intentional Youth Ministry we must remember that it is into this time each of us was born and through our baptism called to respond to this time.  God has a plan for our time when young people have never been more in need of hearing the hope filled message of Jesus Christ.WE must remember – the most important protagonist in all our endeavours today is the Holy Spirit. If we listen together to the Holy Spirit, we trust that out of today we will see what the next step forward should be. 
Today, we might well be starting a new chapter in young adult ministry in Ireland. Our Irish poet, Patrick Kavanagh reminds us that “To be dead is to stop believing in the masterpieces we will begin tomorrow.”
Christ is alive!  And He wants us to be alive.  Like Peter – it will mean having the nerve to do things in a new and different way.  Let us trust the Holy Spirit is guiding us and prompting us to put out into the deep to commit ourselves as a Church to intentionally drawing many more young adults into a life-changing relationship with Christ.

May God bless the work of today. 
Let us stand and invoke the Holy Spirit:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
Statement of Father Stephen Wang
The guest speaker for the Into the deep gathering, Father Stephen Wang of the Archdiocese of Westminster, said “I am hugely excited to be involved in the ‘Intentional Young Adult Ministry’ event organised by the Irish Bishops and that brings together young people from all over the island of Ireland this weekend.  There seems to be a great deal of energy and enthusiasm in the Irish Church at the moment, and a desire to discover new ways of connecting with young people today.  I pray that the meeting will be a catalyst for renewal in the Church, and will allow the Holy Spirit to speak to the hearts of all those who will be present.”

Pictured above at the inaugural ‘Intentional Young Adult Ministry’ gathering in Clongowes Wood College, Clane Co Kildare are (from left to right) Evon Smith, Meabh McDonald, Bishop Martin Hayes and Olivia Conaty