Introducing Ignatian Young Adult Ministry

By Henry Frank

Catholic institutions across the country are grappling with how to engage millennials. They are transient and busy, building careers, getting married, starting families, and facing challenges unique to their generation and this moment in history.

Finding a home in a local parish proves difficult. Many young adults are abandoning the faith traditions of their parents at alarming rates; the data are daunting. The need for innovative and meaningful approaches to young adult ministry is urgent.

The Office of Ignatian Spirituality (OIS), a ministry of the East Coast Jesuits, is tackling this challenge by reaching deep into the heart of the Ignatian tradition. This fall, the OIS launched a bold initiative for young adults in their 20s and 30s that is founded on four fundamental Ignatian principles: spirituality, community, leadership, and service.

Three Ignatian Young Adult Ministries programs will serve young adults on the East Coast in a holistic and distinctly Ignatian style. The programs—Contemplative Leaders in Action (CLA), Charis Ministries, and Jesuit Connections—are uniquely designed to accommodate the kinetic lives of young adults and address their distinct needs. The programs work together to inspire young adults to live as women and men for others, and to offer formation in a way that comports with the realities of their lives.

The CLA cohort in Philadelphia gathered for their closing retreat in June 2017 at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth in Wernersville, Pa.
With collaboration as an organizing principle, Ignatian Young Adult Ministries is partnering with parishes, schools, and other Ignatian ministries to cultivate strong, local communities of young adults inspired by the Jesuits and their way of proceeding.

“Fostering these core Ignatian values among young adults demands a commitment to meeting them on their terms. Young adults represent the future—not to mention the present—of the Jesuit mission and the Church,” said Seán Sanford, director of leadership and young adult programs at the OIS and director of this initiative. “Ignatian Young Adult Ministries aims to do exactly that—three programs, uniquely designed to fulfill a vital mission, working together to build a community of young adults following the Ignatian way.”

Contemplative Leaders in Action

Contemplative Leaders in Action (CLA) is a two-year Ignatian spirituality and leadership formation program for young adults. CLA nurtures individual growth within a cohort of leaders committed to bringing the dynamics of faith and justice to their families, professions, and communities.

CLA operates in seven cities: Baltimore, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington, DC. In each city, CLA forms a cohort of 15 to 18 young adults who meet monthly for dinner and discussion. The first year of the program focuses on Ignatian spirituality; the second year emphasizes Ignatian leadership and culminates in a capstone project, in which participants apply their formation to a specific aspect of their personal, professional, or spiritual lives.

Jesuit Connections presented “A Company of Grace: Inspiring the Next Generation of Ignatian Women Leaders” in April 2017 at St. Ignatius Church in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Charis Ministries

Charis partners with dioceses, parishes, and retreat centers across the country to offer retreat experiences in the Jesuit tradition for young adults, helping them to develop deeper spiritual lives and stronger connections to faith communities. Charis is committed to the idea that taking time away is a welcome and necessary break in their lives. The retreat experiences provide the practical tools of Ignatian spirituality to young adults within the context of a community of peers, helping them to recognize God’s presence in their lives.

Charis has 27 partners nationally and plans to expand along the East Coast.

Jesuit Connections

Jesuit Connections gathers young adults for liturgies, education and service programs, and social networking events. The program also organizes its “Pizza and a Pint and Ignatian Conversation” series, which gathers young adults for an evening of food, drinks, and a panel discussion on Ignatian themes.

Jesuit Connections plans to expand this year to other cities on the East Coast with an identified need for a casual, fun, and engaging program for young adults.

The CLA cohort in Boston gathered for their closing retreat in May 2017 at Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, Mass.

Henry Frank is the Communications and Advancement Manager for the Office of Ignatian Spirituality.

For more information, and to support Ignatian Young Adult Ministries, visit

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