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Young Catholics invited to summer bonfires

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(SAN DIEGO) — When you’re young and Catholic, and it’s summertime, there’s nothing quite like a bonfire.

The diocesan Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry has collaborated with the young adult ministries in each of the deaneries, or geographical clusters of parishes, in San Diego County to organize weekly bonfires at La Jolla Shores.

The seven-week series of bonfires, which began June 9, will continue to be held every Thursday, from 7 to 9 p.m., until July 21. The events are open to all young adult Catholics, ages 18 to 39, regardless of parish affiliation.

The Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office is expecting between 50 and 100 young adults at each week’s installment.

Maricruz Flores, director of the Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry, said each bonfire is hosted by a different deanery, which is responsible for securing the firepit location and providing the graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows for making s’mores.

Six of the diocese’s seven deaneries – Mission, Oceanside, South Bay, El Cajon, Escondido, and Cathedral – will take turns hosting a bonfire. (Geographic distance prevents the El Centro Deanery from doing so.)

The final bonfire will be hosted by Pastoral Juvenil, the diocese’s Spanish-speaking young adult ministry. Both English- and Spanish-speakers are welcome at the event, which have a different feel than the previous bonfires. It will take the form of a praise-and-worship night, followed by a bonfire social.

The diocese is letting the individual deaneries take change of the bonfires, while pledging to provide whatever support they need.

“We want this to be an effort of the deaneries, to help strengthen the relationships between the young adults within their deaneries,” said Flores, who explained that many young adults aren’t even aware of the existence of deaneries and that there is an intermediary level of young adult community between parish and diocese.

She hopes that the bonfires also will help to spread the word about upcoming events, such as the diocese’s annual Young Adult Adoration and Mass, which will be held Aug. 14 at The Immaculata Church, and the Diocesan Young Adult Retreat, set to take place from Sept. 16 to 18 at Whispering Winds Catholic Camp in the Cuyamaca Mountains.

The bonfire series was the brainchild of Pamela Poe, associate director of the Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry, who saw it was a way to expand the office’s outreach and promote collaboration among the diocese’s young adult groups.

“We were planning to kick off these bonfires for 2020, but then COVID changed our plans,” said Poe, who reintroduced the idea early this year. When she pitched it to young adult leaders, they were “more than enthusiastic.”

“The collaborative aspect of the bonfire gave our newly revived Deanery Young Adult Leadership team a new project to work on together,” she said, “and it is really exciting to see the many young adult groups collaborating.”

In addition to San Diego’s enviable weather and the opportunity to make new friends, Flores said bonfire attendees should also expect a “moment of prayer.” She said that the bonfire experience will include “praying together … and breaking bread – which, in this instance, will be s’mores.”

“It doesn’t have to be the entirety of the event,” she said, “but at least, it sets the tone,” she said.

Poe echoed that sentiment.

“Our events are always centered on our faith,” she said, “and so it is most appropriate that we take a moment to pause together as a community of young adults to be in the presence of God, to remind us of His love for us and that He is the reason we are all gathered together.”

For the exact location of each week’s bonfire, as well as any updates or last-minute changes, young adults should check out the Instagram page @sdcatholic.

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