'I am inspired': Bishop Zubik holds open forum with young adults

Tuesday, March 10, 2020 - Updated: 11:34 am

By Theresa Sullivan Correspondent

Over artisan lattes and classy cocktails, Bishop David Zubik and more than 60 young adults shared their hopes, concerns and dreams for the diocese with each other Feb. 24 at De Fer Coffee & Tea in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.

During the event, “An Open Dialogue with Bishop Zubik,” the bishop explained how he believes God is calling people in their 20s and 30s to participate in the life of the diocese. The event was sponsored by Frassati PGH, a young adult group that strives to emulate the example of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, whose short life was consumed with love for God. Frassati PGH hosts monthly events centered on prayer, service, outdoor activities and culture.

Jacob Williamson, Frassati PGH moderator, said the event was designed as a two-way dialogue in which both parties could speak and listen.

“It’s a really important opportunity to have the shepherd of our local church share how, through his prayer, he has discerned the ways that God is calling young adults to serve,” he said. Frassati PGH leadership team member Emily Pino saw the Holy Spirit at work through the event.

“We wanted to have an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work, for the bishop to speak to young adults directly about his heart, and for him to hear the cares on their hearts,” she said.

Bishop Zubik was encouraged by the young adults present.

“I can tell you that I am inspired. You’re the kind of folks I need to carry out my work of shepherding,” he said.

He referenced a photo taken of Frassati climbing a mountain. On that photo, Frassati scribbled the words “verso l’alto,” Italian for “to the heights,” just weeks before he succumbed to polio at age 24. Those words have become a prayerful rallying cry for those seeking to model Frassati and pursue heaven at all costs.

“I look out tonight at people who have the same fire in their souls as Pier Giorgio did,” Bishop Zubik said to the young adults.

He offered three concrete ways that young adults can embody the spirit of Frassati as they live out their faith. He strongly recommended regular conversation with God through prayer, particularly in Eucharistic adoration. Bishop Zubik has declared 2020 a diocesan-wide year of adoration. He said that he could not lead the Church of Pittsburgh without the support of daily prayer before the Eucharist.

Secondly, he urged young adults to act on their faith by inviting friends to Mass, particularly when they find so few of their peers beside them in the pews. Thirdly, he encouraged them to witness their faith through steps as simple as praying before a meal in a restaurant or evangelizing through their social media posts.

Young adults wrote questions that were posed to the bishop. After he responded to a question, they had the opportunity to ask him for further details.

First, Bishop Zubik was asked how he sees the role of community functioning within parishes. He replied that people must deliberately foster community amid life’s many transitions and be welcoming at Sunday Mass.

One attendee expressed concern that many church activities occur during business hours, making it impossible for people with busy work schedules to attend. Bishop Zubik recommended opening an honest dialogue with parish leaders, asking how parish events can better accommodate young adults.

“We need to address and change the status quo if we want to have life in our parishes,” he said.

Another person asked how to minister to the LGBTQ community.

“Don’t alienate anybody,” Bishop Zubik said in reply. “I think that we must maintain our beliefs, but we cannot surrender our capacity to be welcoming. You never know what a kind word or a listening ear will do for someone.”

One young adult asked how Bishop Zubik helps priests cope with the stress inherent to their ministry. He expressed profound concern for priests amid the pressures they face from society, the demands of running a parish, and heartbreak over the clergy sexual abuse scandal. He worries about losing their trust as their leader.

Bishop Zubik prescribed prayer as a remedy. The devil’s greatest weapon is discouragement, he said. He asked attendees to seek ways to support priests, such as offering words or notes of encouragement.

An attendee asked for Bishop Zubik’s best advice on how to evangelize. The bishop pointed to the famed words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.”

“There is no other convincing way to inspire other people than through the way we live our lives,” he said.

Attendee Justin Tomko, an engineer at Bedis Atomic Power Laboratory, liked the three-point action plan that the bishop offered, particularly its emphasis on adoration.

“It struck me most when he said to use adoration as a regular part of a spiritual diet,” he said.

To get involved with Frassati PGH, follow @FrassatiPGH on Facebook or e-mail frassatipgh@gmail.com.

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