Thomas Berra says there’s a definite shift in the summertime.
The 20-year-old student at Lindenwood University is active in his faith, attending the Newman Center on campus and helping out with the university’s Catholic Student Union, of which he will be president come this fall.
Berra has become very familiar with his fellow Catholic classmates. But come summertime, when students typically return home or head out into the world for a variety of reasons — jobs, internships, mission trips, vacations — that community takes a pause.
Berra said it’s important to keep active in the faith during the summertime, just as much as he does during the school year.
College is “a great opportunity for young adults and students to grow in faith, because they have people to be around and grow in fellowship with,” Berra said. “When you remove yourself from that (environment) you feel disconnected. It almost feels like you’re in this gap and there’s this void, so you have to fill in the void.”
Berra was part of a Bible study at Lindenwood led by several Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionaries, who at the end of the school year charged the group to go out and share their Catholic faith with others. “They said go out and use this faith formation and don’t waste it.”
FOCUS missionaries help prepare students for summer and other school breaks, making sure they remain active in their spiritual life, said Amanda George, a program director with FOCUS’ national office in Denver and a former missionary at Oklahoma State University.
George, who grew up at Immaculate Conception Parish in Dardenne Prairie, said college students need to cultivate a virtual “toolbox” to help stay rooted in faith. Part of her summer routine includes attending morning Mass, followed by time afterward for prayer. Sometimes she’ll invite a friend to Mass and lunch.
As a FOCUS missionary, George has given her students a 30-day prayer challenge for the summer, with each day featuring a different Scripture passage to reflect upon. “It gave them something others were doing at the same time, to help relate to other students they kept in touch with over the summer,” she said.
Evan Costello, another St. Louis native and FOCUS missionary, suggested carving out the time to talk to others about faith, whether that’s family or friends who are also home from college. Asking questions such as, “What did you think about the homily? Or the readings?” should be done with the intention of seeking to understand others. Costello, who grew up in Holy Rosary Parish in Warrenton, also recommended taking a risk and meeting new friends.
“Look for opportunities to share yourself and receive the other person,” he said.
Recognizing that young adults are seeking to fill that void while home from college is a message that resonates with the archdiocesan Office of Young Adult Ministry. This is a time when the office and its outreach, STL Young Adults, ramps up activities. Theology on Tap, through its Summer Six Pack series, is offered every other week instead of monthly during the school year. The office also has other ministries, including Emmaus faith-sharing groups, and Discipulus Institute, a faith formation program.
“In the Church today, Newman centers and groups like FOCUS are doing such good work on college campuses that many college students are finding a real home for their faith during those nine months,” said Shane Van Diest, director of the Office of Young Adult Ministry. “One of the big worries is what happens when you go home for the summer? It’s a great occasion to fall back into unvirtuous friendships or old unvirtuous habits. Being intentional about the way you spend your time in the summer is always something that is important when that transition happens.”
Jacqueline Olimpio, a 25-year-old studying at Lindenwood University, is involved with the Newman Center during the school year. On a recent June evening, she dropped in at VIA, a young adult group that meets at Incarnate Word Parish in Chesterfield. The weekly gathering primarily draws young adults recently graduated from college and includes praise and worship music, a short talk and fellowship afterward.
Olimpio said attending adoration at least once a week is important for keeping her faith a priority. Finding social activities with a faith angle such as Theology on Tap is a great way to connect with other young adults who share the same faith values, she added.
She recently was inspired by a friend to create a prayer table at home, where she practices Lectio Divina and other devotions. “If I didn’t have somebody to go to adoration with or was otherwise stuck at home, I still have a place for my daily commitment to prayer, and that’s helped tremendously,” she said.
>> St. Louis Young Adults
St. Louis Young Adults is an
outreach of the Office of Young Adult Ministry in the Archdiocese of St.
Louis that serves young adults between the ages of 21-35. It seeks to
establish a lasting foundation for Young Adult Ministry in the
archdiocese, and supports vibrant and visible communities that empower
young adults to grow in their relationship with Christ and His Church.
Office of Young Adult Ministry was started by Archbishop Robert J.
Carlson in the fall of 2011. The office has two full-time staff members
who collaborate with parishes, develop young adult leaders, support
young adult groups within the archdiocese and organize events for St.
Louis Young Adults.
St. Louis Young Adults keeps an ongoing list
of events for young adults in the archdiocese, as well as a listing of a
dozen local groups that are aimed at young adults. To learn more, visit
The Office of Young Adult Ministry is supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal