Staying faithful after graduation
Change can be exciting and tumultuous, often at the same time. In some respects, the transitions that come with graduating from high school and college can be some of the toughest to navigate.
We have spent years building up to the momentous occasion and once we walk across the stage it might seem like our future is supposed to be set in stone. We might even have the impression that at this point in life we should “have it all together.” While this might be true for some, it’s not the reality for most graduates.
An often overlooked post-grad step is staying connected to God and the Church. I’d like to illustrate this reality with three stories.
Claire was a senior at Nolan. She was headed to a great school with a great campus ministry. As graduation approached, I encouraged her to plug in right away because it’s easy for faith to slip away if we do not stay connected. She assured me her faith was so strong it would never fade. Well, midway through her second semester she let me know everything I warned her about had happened. She slowly stopped going to Church and sure enough her faith life had dwindled.
After high school, Anthony was not interested in college — he was interested in getting out of his parents’ house! And that’s exactly what he did, at least until he lost his roommates, his money ran out, and he needed to move back home. During his days of “freedom” he seldom went to church. But back home he reconnected with his faith, started volunteering with the youth ministry program, and even joined a Bible study.
The last story is about Jennifer, who finished college and when she came back home decided to join the young adult group at the parish, but she did not find one. But since she had a degree in business and marketing she decided to start one! A few years later it had grown bigger than she could have ever imagined.
Each of these stories teaches a lesson. Claire’s teaches us that we are never strong enough on our own. Anthony’s story shows that even if we stray for a while, God is always waiting for us to return. Lastly, Jennifer’s story reveals that when you see a need, you can fill it.
All of these stories together touch upon three necessary elements to keeping your faith strong as an adult.
The first is community. We are made in the image and likeness of a God who is three in one. Thus, we are made for community. We cannot exist on our own and we cannot grow in faith alone. But we must remember that whomever we spend time with will influence us. The trick is to spend time with peers who have the same faith and values.
The second key to staying close to Jesus is to stay close to the sacraments. Especially the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. Too often we stay away from Confession out of fear, embarrassment, or a sense of unworthiness, but Jesus died and rose again to conquer the power of sin. All we have to do is summon the courage to stop by the parish on a Saturday afternoon and get our soul washed clean. Additionally, receiving the Eucharist connects us to Jesus in the most perfect and intimate way possible.
The third element is responsibility. As an adult, it’s up to you to stay connected. You are the one choosing your friends. You can set your alarm for Mass and you can choose to join a young adult event at the parish or diocese.
Lastly, I would encourage you to get involved wherever you go to Mass. Join a Mass ministry, volunteer in religious education, or join a Bible study or the Knights of Columbus.
If you find yourself not feeling connected to the Church, don’t wait for someone to show up at your front door with an invitation. Read the bulletin — most likely a call for volunteers is already there. Our diocese and local parishes also host many young adult events. For more on those, visit www.fwyam.org. You are always welcome.