ESTEEM for the Church

I’ve spent the last couple days with nearly 75 young adults, mostly college seniors, who are participating in a new program, ESTEEM, at Catholic campus ministry centers across the nation designed to empower them with the tools and skills to be leaders in the church.

Following a panel of young adults addressing the transition from college life to young adulthood, I was intrigued by some of the questions a few students asked. They were concerned about the encroachment of secularism and its impact on Catholic identity; the lack of catechesis among their Catholic peers; and how young people lack significant spiritual knowledge to operate in a hostile world.


Most of the students seem open to the world and the beauty that animates it, but I was struck by the sense of fear that seemingly compelled some of these questions. Just as a strong leader is comfortable in asking for help and seeking out constructive criticism, I wonder if strong, confident faith lends itself toward more openness toward exploring and engaging different values and ideas. The notion of retreating from the world into a sort of Catholic ghetto is not new, but I was surprised to hear this articulated from fellow young adults.

By equipping young adults with solid foundations in Catholic theology and ecclesiology, we can prepare them for the challenges they will undoubtedly face from the world, but also make them more open to it. Throughout much of its history, the church excelled in being open to the wonders of the world, and engaging those who approach life differently. There is much to learn from the world, and the church has much to offer to it as well. By forming strong and confident Catholics, we are preparing leaders to be prophetic and engaged, faithful and open. With so many challenges in the church, it is refreshing to be around so much vitality and energy from Catholics who, at this seminal time in their lives, have so much optimism and hope about their future and the church’s future.

Michael J. O'Loughlin


Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Bill Mazzella
7 years 11 months ago

The program seems nebulous and general rather than specific. The leaders of Esteem are not identified. So it makes one wonder if anything is being fronted. Most troubling is that it seems like a new casting of the same old polemics. I think David's question is a good one. At the same time I wonder if we should participate in the polarization rather than solutions. For example, we can  all agree that we want a vibrant church that stresses that all the members care for one another and work to build up each other through Jesus Crucified. We can also agree that we should keep the emphasis on the gospel and not let anyone get away with insisting on obedience to her or him rather than Matthew 25: 36-41. We can also agree that the leaders have made it about themselves and not God. That attitude has made them squander money and resources which should be used to practice Matthew 25.  So it is not so much about the threat of secularism as it is the need to be a church which forms a community of love and caring. We can all welcome catehesis from a group who models how a people can be a church which serves the Lord according to the passage cited above.
7 years 11 months ago
#1,   You seem to imply that if one practices his Christian faith differently from yours,  that it is automatically suspect.  There are cultural pattern differences to consider.  Perhaps, listening with the heart would be very helpful, before making judgments.  Let the other person first explains his idea or understanding of what being a Catholic is, what Catholic theology and ecclesiology he has studied or is learning.   Give him the benefit of the doubt.  And if he is way off, then begin the conversation.  It's the Jesus way of conversion to his point of view.   Remember the woman at the well?  and Zacchaes?  He listened with his heart.  A loving approach is much more transforming than outright debate at the first encounter/meeting!
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 11 months ago
Why is self-esteem equated with leadership, and why are these young people encouraged to be LEADERS in the Church? 

Honestly, I don't see how it can be presumed that young 20-somethings are capable of the wisdom needed to inspire others in a faith tradition.  Seems to me that any leader worth following or listening to need some experience of FAILURE first.


The latest from america

Even in our relationships with family and friends, forgiveness can be hard to come by.
Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, the archbishop of Santiago, Chile, the Vatican announced on March 23.
Gerard O’ConnellMarch 23, 2019
Sister Bibiana Emenaha
A combination of a rapidly growing population, extreme poverty, unemployment and armed conflict push people to cross Nigeria’s porous borders in search of a better life.
Linus UnahMarch 22, 2019
As we come to grips with a national history of violence, greed and racialized privilege, this fable of noblesse oblige rings hollow.
Brandon SanchezMarch 22, 2019