Jim Graves is a Catholic writer and editor living in Newport Beach, California. He previously served as Managing Editor for the Diocese of Orange Bulletin, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, California. His work has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Cal Catholic Daily and Catholic World Report.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office regularly presents a “Christ in the City” program, a monthly evening of adoration which provides young adults an opportunity for spiritual growth through time spent in prayer and worship before the Blessed Sacrament. James Behan, Associate Director for Young Adult Ministry for the archdiocese, recently shared about the program.
New Orleans was first created as a diocese in 1793, making it among the oldest dioceses in the U.S. It became an archdiocese in 1850. It has a population of 1.2 million, 518,000 of whom are Catholic. It has 111 parishes, 330 diocesan and religious priests and 34 seminarians.
Behan’s role with the archdiocese is to aid parishes in their outreach to young adults aged 18-39 and overseeing archdiocesan-wide gatherings, including Christ in the City.
How does Christ in the City work?
Our office reaches out to the young adult community to remind them to come and to priests, deacons and seminarians to assist as celebrants and servers. We also have young adult music ministry and hospitality teams. The music ministry team selects and leads the praise and worship songs and the hospitality team welcomes and directs the attendees to the Notre Dame Seminary Chapel and to the reconciliation rooms. After the hour of adoration, we hold a post-event social across the street at Rock ‘N Bowl (Mid-City Lanes.)
Our target audience is both the regular crowd at Catholic young adult events as well as individuals who don’t normally attend these events but may be drawn in by some of the priests we choose to celebrate with us or perhaps just curiosity about this unique event.
Many young adults have never been to adoration and don’t really know what it is. We are not looking to compete with the many wonderful opportunities offered throughout the archdiocese at their perpetual adoration chapels. What we hope to do is to introduce them to the concept of adoration and stir in them the desire to commit to a regular time in their own parish adoration chapel.
What sort of participation have you had?
The participation varies from month to month. In the five months I’ve been in my role, we’ve had as few as 40 and as many as 100.
What impact has it had on the archdiocese?
What I can say is that there’s been a generation of young adults in the archdiocese who have had the opportunity to grow in their spiritual formation and in the regular practices of adoring the Blessed Sacrament and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation by attending Christ in the City. I can only hope that taking this time to be silent and still with the Lord has brought many moments of peace to the anxious, hope to the hopeless and direction to those questioning their vocation.
To what extent are Archbishop Gregory Aymond (the diocesan bishop) and other clergy involved?
Archbishop Aymond has been a consistent supporter of Christ in the City. He tries to lead two gatherings each year as his schedule permits. Following the evenings he leads, he hosts the social reception at his residence, which is next door to Notre Dame Seminary where Christ in the City is held. It is one of the ways he is able to minister to the young adult community in the archdiocese that is important to him, as we are ‘the Church of now.’
We have other priests throughout the archdiocese who assist Christ in the City as celebrant and as extra confessors to accommodate the needs of the young adult community that gathers. We work with the seminary community that hosts us and we have seminarians that assist as servers.
What is its history coming to the archdiocese?
Christ in the City began in 2002 in the Washington, D.C., area as the brain child of Fr. Rob Panke and Therese Bermpohl. These individuals gathered five to 10 young adults to brainstorm a way to reach out to young adults on a spiritual level. They decided on a monthly evening of praise and worship adoration at St. Patrick’s Church in Washington. They came up with a good format, a small band and a marketing plan. The first evening we had over 100 young adults in attendance. This event is still going on today and has even expanded to other events throughout the D.C. area.
Some members of our archdiocese reached out to the original organizers and it looks like we started holding Christ in the City evenings in 2008 or 2009.
What else would you like to share?
Christ in the City is a wonderful opportunity for college groups to come together and pray with the Blessed Sacrament as well as recent college graduates, young adults who have recently moved to New Orleans and young adults looking to find members of a community who share in a desire to grow in their witness as a disciple.