What can young adult Catholics do for their parishes and their communities?
Beyond the activities — the popular Catholic Underground and Theology on Tap — Lewis is working with pastors and deaneries, advocating for young adult groups in the parishes. Among the English-speaking parishes, there are less than half a dozen of such groups, although some, such as Catholic Community of Pleasanton, are building ministries to young adults.
There are 23 young adult ministries in Spanish-speaking parishes, Lewis said, with Jovenes Para Cristo, for example, drawing an age range greater than the 18-to-35-year-olds young adult ministry typically serves.
To his new position in Oakland, Lewis brings three years' experience as a FOCUS missionary on college campuses. His first assignment, at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, was one of the toughest.
"It's very easy to be Catholic at Steubenville," Lewis said. As a FOCUS missionary, "you were the voice of doom. 'It's much harder out there.'"
The next year he spent at Temple University in Philadelphia. He was able to reconnect with some of the students he met there during his recent visit to that city for the World Meeting of Families.
His third assignment took him back to his native California, where he spent one semester at Cal State Fullerton, a mostly commuter school, and the second at UC-Irvine, which has an active Catholic community. The challenge there, he said, was to "teach them to turn around and face outward."
The decision to join FOCUS came from taking the advice of a priest at his first job after graduation from Loyola Marymount University: "You should pray with the people you work with."
In the Oakland diocese, Lewis is setting out to provide young adult Catholics with the tools they need to make that difference in the world. He plans to "make all the volunteer activities very obvious: St. Vincent de Paul Society is very healthy in this diocese, as are Catholic Charities and Catholic Worker."
He wants to offer "ways to encounter and serve other people, the poor, disenfranchised and marginalized."
"If I'm a young adult who just moved here and I want to find other young adults who are Catholic and to serve, I should be able to find it," he said. There will be a place for service opportunities on the young adult website, he said.
Lewis' work is energized, in part, by his recent trip to Philadelphia.
"I went because I do ministry for young adults," he said. "There weren't that many young adults who had the time or the ability to go. I went. I took copious notes at the World Meeting of Families. I made sure I heard all his speeches, so i could come back and say, 'This is what the pope wants us to do. This is how he wants to look at families; this is how he wants to look at the Gospel in our country.'"
As for Pope Francis himself, Lewis had a couple of close encounters.
"He's so holy," he said. "He came here with a very obvious mission: to tell people about the Gospel and to tell people about the family. And that's what he did.
"He kept on saying these things as if they're so simple and easy, 'we need to combat the throwaway culture. We need to combat the loneliness of the throwaway culture.' He is saying the things as if they're easy to do. I'm going, that's really difficult.
"It was uplifting, inspiring to get someone who has this clear vision that's so obviously good and preach that to us and send us back home," Lewis said.
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