In last week’s blog post, Jonathan Lewis discussed the need for spiritual mentors for young adults in the Catholic Church. That need also was the focus for Lewis’s intervention at the Synod of Bishops on Young People in October at the Vatican.
Lewis, who serves as Assistant Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington, was one of three young adult Americans whom Pope Francis invited to participate in the synod.
This week, Saint Mary’s Press Research asked Lewis and several others with first-hand experience serving with young adults: How does a person connect with a young adult in order to be a spiritual companion or mentor? Following are four responses.
The sacred role of spiritual companion has been pure gift of the Spirit for me!
My journey with the Nuns & Nones community has taught me again and again the importance of
— meeting the young people where they are, physically and personally;
— bringing a welcoming, open spirit;
— LISTENING, engaging, learning together;
— responding to their interests and initiatives.
I have found myself inspired by their desire to learn, by the depth of their questions and insights.
They have amazing networks. One connection can open up a world of new relationships! It has for me!
Gloria Marie Jones, OP, member of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose
and a participant in Nuns & Nones
The first connection to make is with God. It may seem simple, but it is a profoundly important first step.
Ask God whether God is calling you to serve as a spiritual mentor. If so, God will provide the grace to fulfill the call. If you’re not sure whether you have a call, find yourself a Spiritual Director and they can help you discern what God may be calling you to. Experiencing Spiritual Direction for yourself will provide immense wisdom as you begin to answer God’s call to serve as a spiritual mentor for and with others.
Daniel Valcazar II, received his Master of Divinity from the
Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA
The spiritual mentors in my life have been skilled at asking the kinds of questions that have caused me to pause, . . .
. . . then ponder something I hadn’t considered before—taking me to a depth of contemplation I had not expected. Perhaps the first act of the spiritual mentor is to ask an open-hearted question. The second act, then, is to create the trusted space of silence for that question to be answered by the other.
I think of Francisco de Osuna, the spiritual mentor of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. When they would come to him for spiritual direction he would ask just one question: How is your heart today?
What are the open-hearted questions we might ask of young people today? Can we create safe, silent space for them to linger in the question, allowing the Spirit to lead where it will?
John Vitek, president and CEO, Saint Mary’s Press, coauthor Going, Going, Gone: The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics
The first place to start with spiritual mentorship is to work with young people already engaging in the life of the parish community.
Leaders who work in Marriage Preparation, Baptism Preparation, RCIA, and new parishioner welcome ministries have a privileged opportunity to not simply teach a class on a particular subject but to accompany young people through a sacramental journey, both before and after the celebration of that Sacrament. Too often our formation and pastoral care of couples, young families, catechumens, etc. ends soon after a sacrament is received, instead of continuing to accompany that person for months or a year after, which is when more substantive questions and challenges tend to arise in a person’s life.
The second place to look for young people to mentor is at those already involved in your life.
Take some time to reflect upon the young people who live in your neighborhood,who work with you or who are involved in similar activities. Sharing experience and affinity provides a foundation of trust that can be built upon through increased engagement, dialogue, and practical support. We should always be attentive to reach out to those people who may be interested in spiritual companionship and not to force our mentorship to those who are not interested. Spiritual companionship always grows out of a mutual discernment and choice between a mentor and a young person.
Jonathan Lewis, Assistant Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns, Archdiocese of Washington, and delegate to Synod of Bishops on Young People
Jerry Ruff, Senior Writer and Editor
Saint Mary’s Press Research