Young adults invited to hear voice of God

Tuesday, September 10, 2019 - Updated: 11:01 am

By JOHN FRANKO Staff Writer

Young adults have to sift through the noise of the world in discerning their faith. Can they really hear the voice of God? How can they hear what God wants from them? How can they contribute to the world? Are they the one?

They’ll have the opportunity to examine these questions during a “Hearing God’s Voice in the Chaos” program Thursday, Sept. 19, from 7-10 p.m. at the St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat Center on Pittsburgh’s South Side.

The program reflects St. Paul of the Cross Monastery’s desire to “reconnect” with the Catholic and wider community.

“The focus is young adults due to a variety of factors, but primarily because the monastery has a heart and a desire to minister to these folks,” said Gary Roney, director of youth and young adult engagement in the diocesan Department for Catholic Education and Evangelization, who is assisting with the program. “Beyond solving the myriad of problems we face as a church, we can’t forget the importance of accompanying people through these difficult times and to focus on the person, especially the young, and not the problem.”

The presenter will be internationally-known speaker Joe Farris. Roney pointed to Farris’ engaging personality and genuine concern for those who attend his programs, adding, “Joe has a desire to be present and genuinely listen to Pittsburgh’s young adults. We want to provide the space, hold the space, to build relationships and form community strong enough to handle what challenges we are to face in the future.”

While he has spent much of his life in service to the church, Farris brings a rather unique approach to his ministry. Married with six children, his family gave away all of their possessions seven years ago to enter at two-year period as full-time missionaries. He now combines his love for stand-up comedy and storytelling, with a great confidence in the mercy and love of God.

In raising his family, Farris said, he has always tried very hard to joyfully model hope.

“Our life experience has taught us that oftentimes things seem hopeless,” he said. “It is in these moments where God seems to be speaking the loudest.”

Young adults, Farris said, are surrounded by noise and distraction in the world. They are often convinced they will be happy if or when something happens — the perfect spouse, job or vacation. And yet the message of Jesus flips this mentality. It does not mean that they shouldn’t strive for better things, but they must listen to the voice of God and allow him to guide them.

“The urgency the world presents to each and every decision is generally not fulfilling or accurate,” Farris said. “I would hope (after hearing the program) that young adults will be in a place to better discern the voice of God and respond accordingly.”

Farris pointed out that the Passionists of St. Paul of the Cross model for him a deeper family existence rooted in Christ, sustained by the sacraments and lived out in love for one another. It is the best model of the new evangelization that he is aware of. He said that it won’t be programs or events that turn the church around in modern times, but our love for each other.

“This is attractive to a frustrated, lonely world,” he said.

Farris also noted that in seeking to reconnect with the South Side and surrounding areas, St. Paul of the Cross is recognizing the need to provide a safe place for young adults to encounter the mercy and love of God. “There is no secret or plan, just love,” he said.

With so many public struggles that do not reflect the heart of Christ affecting the church, Roney said, not reaching out to the faithful can actually push them further away. We must welcome and encourage those with a fragile faith, and help them to embrace their cross and see who God calls them to be.

“We must stay close to young people with this message, and cannot risk losing them to despair and discouragement,” he said. “This is not the message of the Gospel.”

The St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat Center is at 148 Monastery Ave. For information and registration, contact Farris at Joe@JoeFarris.org.

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