If there was any doubt that young Catholic adults thirst for Christ and Christian community, the Diocese of Orange’s monthly Heart of the City events prove otherwise.
Hundreds of young adults from Orange County, Riverside, San Diego, and Los Angeles continue to flock to Christ Cathedral for the weeknight events – despite the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Initially the whole goal was to come together and pray,” recalls Gerardo Butalid, a campus minister at Santa Margarita High School who has managed the Heart of the City events for the past three years. “We were extremely excited about the response. One of the biggest surprises was the amount of zeal and ‘yes’ that a lot of people give to the ministry.”
Advertised on Instagram at @hrtofthecty_ or instagram.com/hrtofthecty_ and on Facebook at facebook.com/SoCalCatholicYoungAdults, the events feature prayer, community, and the sacraments, as well as adoration and a guest speaker on a particular topic. A creative team collaborates on preparing the space, creating materials, promoting the event on social media, performing music, developing videos, and coordinating the event.
Recent topics have included Lenten-based issues, such as prayer, fasting, Sabbath, and Scripture.
At present, the free time for young people to socialize is limited because of the pandemic, and seating is socially distanced, Butalid notes. Normally held in the Cultural Center, the events now take place in the atrium area outside the cathedral.
Cecilia Phan, the diocesan Youth and Young Adult Ministry coordinator, points out that the diocese isn’t the only place offering prayer and worship to young people and says she’s impressed with the commitment of those involved in the Heart of the City community.
“These young adults share a larger vision,” Phan says. “They truly believe that God is calling them to serve their community.”
Guest speakers rotate and the events are a community effort, rather than the brainchild of a single individual.
“Often we found that in youth ministry, if you have an engaging and popular, charismatic leader and that person leaves, the ministry dies,” she observes. “Heart of the City is not about any one person; a lot of young adults have come to the forefront and taken ownership of their faith.
“They show up and stay for up to five hours, give their best and their all – it’s a beautiful representation of what you can do given an investment of time and resources and a dream.”
Phan says the group wants to plan a weekend conference in the fall where young Catholic adults can further deepen their community through prayer.
Butalid says young adults often are quick to give to lay organizations, but hesitate to help in their parishes. “Here, they have a stake in what the Church does and who she is,” he notes. “They don’t feel empowered at their parishes. I fear sometimes that if Catholics don’t feel that empowerment, they’ll find somewhere else to use their talents.”
What sets Heart of the City apart, he adds, is that Jesus is always at the center of the events and community. “Young adult culture is motivated by different things, but Jesus is still the king of what’s happening in Orange County. We make sure we put Him at the center of it.”
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