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Diocese unites youth, young adult offices

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SAN DIEGO — More than 15 years after they were divided into separate offices, the diocesan Offices for Youth Ministry and Young Adult Ministry have been reunited.

Maricruz Flores, who had served as director of the Office for Youth Ministry since July 2019, is the new director of the merged office and heads a four-person team.

Associate Director Pamela Poe had served as associate director of the Office for Young Adult Ministry for the past four years. Associate Director Brilema Pérez, formerly an administrative assistant to both the Youth Ministry and Young Adult Ministry offices, has rejoined the diocesan staff after leaving in September 2018 to pursue a Research Master and Sacrae Theologiae Baccalaureus from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Leuven, Belgium. Erika Quevedo remains onboard as administrative assistant.

The diocese announced Flores’ appointment and the restructuring of the office on Feb. 23.

“I don’t want people to think that I’m coming in to tear down and rebuild, when there’s already such a beautiful ministry going on with the young adults,” said Flores, 32.

She praised Patrick Rivera, who stepped down as director of the Office for Young Adult Ministry last December, and Poe for their ministry successes. Together, she said, they had been “a force to be reckoned with.”

“We don’t want to change too much,” she said. “We’ve all been doing really good work in our separate offices. (The question is) how can we make it better?”

One way, she suggested, is to greet the recent merger as an opportunity “to bridge that gap” between youth and young adult ministry, finding ways to smooth the transition from youth groups and confirmation classes for Catholic teenagers to the sort of programming that Catholic college students and young professionals need.

She referenced “Going, Going, Gone: The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics,” a report released in 2018 on why young Catholics leave the Church. Based on a national study, the report revealed that the median age at which young people stop identifying as Catholic is 13.

A merged office enables the diocese to present “a united front” in confronting this challenge, Flores said. It also will allow the team to see how Pastoral Juvenil, a Spanish-language youth and young adult ministry with an emphasis on faith-formation and leadership training, and the existing English-language young adult ministry program might enrich one another through the exchange of best practices.

“We don’t want it to be something separate,” she said of Pastoral Juvenil.

“The priorities set forth by the Young Adult Synod in 2019 remain at the forefront as we emerge from the pandemic, which halted much of the progress that was underway,” said diocesan Chancellor Marioly Galván. “Additionally, with Maricruz’s pastoral experience with both youth and young adults through the V Encuentro process, she will further be able to address the needs of our Spanish-speaking youth and young adults, which will lend for greater bridge-building between the two communities.”

The Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry was a four-year process of consultations from the parish through the national level, beginning in 2017, to set priorities for Hispanic ministry in the United States.

For her part, Flores sees her “job” in coming months as listening to the diocese’s young adult ministry leaders about their concerns.

She said that “one of the biggest lessons” she learned as she moved from director of a parish youth and young adult ministry to director of the diocesan Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry is that she is “not meant to do this alone.”

“I’m meant to do this with a team (and) with people at the parishes … The only way things are going to work well is if we do it all together.”

More information is available at sdcatholic.org/youngadult.

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