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May 12, 2010
Young adults are invited to join inner-city mission project
By John Gleason
Their Web site says it all: “25 college students, two weeks, one mission—encounter Christ in the city.”
Christ in the City is the name of a new leadership program of Catholic Charities that integrates the spiritual and academic formation of young adults with charity. The program is the idea of Jonathan Reyes, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver.
A two-week pilot program will be launched in Denver next month. If all goes as planned, a year-long program will be initiated fall 2011.
Limited to just 25 college-age adults, the pilot program has already attracted many young people from across the nation and has just seven slots left to fill.
“There’s no question we have something here; the interest has been astounding,” Reyes said. “We announced the program at the FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) conference last January in Florida and got all kinds of feedback; everyone wants to be a part of this.”
Reyes is the former president of the Augustine Institute, a Catholic graduate school located at Teikyo Loretto Heights in Denver, and a former vice president of FOCUS, a nationwide Catholic campus ministry program headquartered here. His experience in those fields combined with his current job as head of the social ministry arm of the Catholic community in the archdiocese led to the Christ in the City project.
Christ in the City provides formation in three areas: spiritual, intellectual and service. For spiritual formation, the participants will live and pray together as a community (females will live together at one site and males at another) and will end their mission with a retreat. For intellectual formation, the participants will attend classes at the Augustine Institute on Catholic social teaching and on evangelization (for which they will receive academic credit). For service, participants will serve the poor in a variety of ministries ranging from conducting a field day for inner-city youths and teaching English as a Second Language, to assisting the elderly at Mullen Home and working in ministries of the archdiocese’s Respect Life Office.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., called Christ in the City one of the most important Catholic Charities initiatives in the last 20 years.
“It turns the goodwill and unselfish energy of young people into Gospel action,” he said. “It’s an immersion program in what the virtue of Christian charity actually means.”
Reyes said that applications for the program began coming in almost immediately after Christ in the City was mentioned at the FOCUS conference.
“Our dream is to have 100 students for the year-long project,” he said.
Yvonne Noggle, coordinator for Christ in the City, said the hope is that in the future college students will consider taking a year off their studies to participate in the program or will join up after they graduate.
“Everyone who’s called to inquire comments on how exciting this is and asks how they can become a part of it,” she said. “These young people know they’ll see a difference in the lives they touch. They’ll work in the (archdiocese’s) pro-life office, at Samaritan House or in emergency shelters. They’ll go to parishes where a lot of physical labor has to be done.”
Megan Crain, 23, recently graduated from the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., with a degree in biology. By telephone she told the Denver Catholic Register she had considered doing volunteer work after finishing school. Finding out about Christ in the City was perfect timing.
“I want to get my feet wet during this first program,” she said, “and then come back next year and be part of the longer program.”
Reflecting on academic life, Crain said there are some things one simply can’t experience in the classroom.
“It’ll be great to be out of the books and into the community,” she said. “You get to serve the poor, spend time in fellowship with other volunteers and have a chance to learn more about the Church. It’s an exciting project to be part of.”
Upon graduating from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, 22-year-old Elizabeth Pena said she wants to get into the nonprofit field. She sees participating in Christ in the City as a great way to start.
“Look at what this is: building, implementing and evaluating programs that serve the poor,” she said. “It’s really everyone’s call to serve those who are in need.”
Reyes said the response of Crain and Pena is typical of what he has heard from young people since news of the program was announced.
“You can see it in the eyes of this young generation of Catholics—they want to serve,” he said. “Some want to evangelize through speaking, others through their hands. Here’s the chance.”
Christ in the City will run June 5-20. Cost to participate is $500, which includes meals and accommodations. Scholarships are available. For more information, call 303-742-0828 Ext. 1048 or go online to www.CCDenver.org/Christ. For more information on other work of Catholic Charities, call 303-742-0828 or go online to www.CCDenver.org.