More than 200 young adults recently gathered at a Philadelphia shrine to “begin a new journey” in spreading the Gospel to their peers.

Archbishop Nelson Pérez presided at an Oct. 16 holy hour sponsored by the archdiocesan Office for Ministry with Young Adults (OMYA) at the National Shrine of St. John Neumann in the city’s Northern Liberties section. The three-hour “Reconnect” gathering, the official kickoff event for the newly formed OMYA, included adoration, praise music, liturgical movement, reflection and fellowship.

The effort to reach young adults “(has) to start before the Real Presence” of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament,” said the archbishop in his welcoming remarks. “You will need God’s grace and perseverance to do what he has called you to do, as individuals, as a community and as the church.”

That church embraces “many cultures” and has “penetrated every country” in the world,” said Father Stephen DeLacy, vicar of the archdiocesan Office for Faith Formation for Youth and Young Adults, which oversees OMYA as well as the Offices for Ministry with Youth, Catechetical Formation and archdiocesan Newman Center Apostolates at local colleges and universities.

“We are being set on fire in the midst of our young adults,” said Father DeLacy. “Tonight is a very powerful sign that we are not leaving anyone behind, and we are growing into the fullest expression of what it means to be the church.”

At an Oct. 16 holy hour for young adults, Archbishop Nelson Pérez stressed the need to share faith in Christ with others. (Gina Christian)

The holy hour’s various Scripture readings, hymns, intercessions and prayers were offered in a number of languages, including Spanish, French, English, Latin, Ewe, Filipino, Igbo, Ukrainian and American Sign Language (ASL).

The broad inclusiveness of the event, along with the opportunity to socialize with fellow young adults, appealed to attendee Francine Tyson, a member of the archdiocesan Deaf Apostolate.

“I wanted to see some of my deaf friends, and I really enjoyed the music and the archbishop’s words,” said Tyson, speaking in ASL through an interpreter.

Darragh Hannan, social media coordinator for the young adult group at Nativity B.V.M. Parish in Media, was grateful for the chance to “get the archdiocesan young adult community” face to face.

While a number of parish-based and regional young adult groups are active throughout the archdiocese, “right now everyone is kind of siloed off,” said Hannan, who stressed the need for groups to “talk to each other” in order to expand the wider Catholic young adult community.

And that’s precisely the focus of OMYA, said director Matthew Davis.

Young adults listen to a reflection by Archbishop Nelson Pérez during at Oct. 16 holy hour at the National Shrine for St. John Neumann. (Gina Christian)

“The mantra of this office is ‘connect, grow and share,’” he said. “We hope and pray that tonight you feel more connected with God and others, you experience growth in your love for Jesus and you enjoy the opportunity to share friendship with others.”

Balancing all three is vital, said Archbishop Pérez, noting that an authentic relationship with God is “not just about the Lord and us.”

“(It’s) also (about) these pews that are empty… the ones that will be occupied by those you go out and search for,” he said.

Called from their various professions by Jesus, the Apostles “weren’t given a manual, a program or a strategic plan,” said the archbishop. “They had no Facebook or Instagram or SnapChat or TikTok.”

Rather, “all they had was a passionate heart, an encounter with the Risen Lord and their voice,” he said. “And somehow, some way, God changed what they had and multiplied it.”

Having themselves “connected, grown and shared” with Christ, the Apostles were in turn commanded to invite others to the Lord, said Archbishop Pérez.

“Now it wasn’t about ‘come’ – it was about ‘go,’” he said. “Go and teach all nations, and baptize them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

The archdiocesan area offers a large mission field for young Catholic adults, said Hannan.

“So many other young adults here are looking for community, and finding it in their own ways or not at all,” she said. “I can’t wait to see how OMYA does.”