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Young adults: faith in Florida

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When the University of Miami was established in 1925, the prospect of a Catholic student center was far off. It wasn’t until 34 years later that the St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center opened its doors to the U’s Catholic students.

At that time, the Newman center held Mass every day at 7 a.m. and noon in the old Dominican Rite. Confession was available daily a half hour before the second Mass.

Today, around the parish lounge, one can see black and white photos of a time gone by: Young men and women in Mad Men-esque outfits, partaking of one of the many dances the Newman Club, as they called it, would host. Those were the days men (including college students) wore suit and tie to parties and dates, and the ladies matched their shoes, gloves and purses to their dainty dresses.

The Newman Club also hosted lectures and discussions for the students, organized by the chaplains, Dominican Fathers Thomas Clifford and Matthew Hanley, who were, according to one alumnus-turned-priest, “intelligent, articulate, zealous and caring.”

This January, the student center marked its 55th anniversary, and 45 years as a parish community.

Though it has since been named St. Augustine Church, some things haven’t changed.

The student ministry still hosts dances and lectures, but now there are also retreats, adventure and service trips, men’s and women’s formation groups, and more.

Weekday confession takes place on campus, and the Catholic Campus Ministry has invited religious men and women to witness to students on campus.

The parish community consists not only of students, but is an intergenerational, diverse group — many of whom are alumni of the university.

Among the church’s many ministries is the young adult group, which meets weekly, and also hosts men’s and women’s formation, along with community service opportunities and retreats. Many of the young adults make themselves available to serve at various parish functions, including the campus ministry.

As one student told me, “It’s wonderful to see young adults who talk to us and take notice of us.”

On average, about 40 people gather weekly for meetings, coming not only from Coral Gables but as far out as Pembroke Pines, Homestead, Key Biscayne, Brickell and Kendall.

On Jan. 31, many of these young adults joined over 300 others from all over the state of Florida for the sixth annual young adult retreat held at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach.

The retreat continues to double in size, as more and more college students and young adults invite their peers to partake of a day dedicated to growing deeper in the faith. The retreat also serves as a sort of reunion for young adults of the state, who arriving at the seminary, find former college friends as well as brother seminarians from their own dioceses.

Are you a college student or young adult looking to find your place in the Church? Check out the U’s or St. Augustine’s groups, or look for a group near you by checking with the archdiocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

Comments from readers

Bill Brown - 02/25/2015 07:11 PM
Great and encouraging article about work with the youth by our Church!
Araceli Cantero - 02/25/2015 06:19 PM
As a graduate from the University of Miami I remember the years of the Newman Club with the Dominican Fathers and the collaboration of members of the Teresian Association and later on the transition of the Club to a Parish, with Father Louis Roberts and the priests that followed. I am very glad that the tradition is kept. Thank you for keeping up the good memories and specially for inviting Catholic students to be light of the world and salt of the earth among their peers. Araceli
Paulette D''Angelo Vitale - 02/24/2015 01:31 PM
It warms my heart to see the "rebirth" of YAM in the Archdiocese. Myself and a few other trailblazers (in 1981) saw groups form beginning with Saint Louis Parish in Miami, then to Visitation in North Dade growing rapidly and Nationally by 1983. Representatives (young adult lay, clergy and religious) from California to Maine, with the support of the USCCB in Washington, met and formed NCYAMA (National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association) with Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy appointing the ADOM's first, full-time (Female!) Director in the forming of the new Office of Young Adult Ministry in 1987. With over 5,000 active constituents, two short years later, budget constraints closed The Voice and the Office of YAM simultaneously. Seemingly, money has become available to begin again, giving young adults (single and married, 18-35) a sense of belonging; be it, at campuses and parishes as students and professionals. AMEN!
victor martell - 02/23/2015 03:46 PM
Wonderful message we need in our church more youth people coming to our ministries.You are the salt of the earth, urgently need your participation.Thanks for your article

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