By Roman Flores
IMPERIAL – The whir of bean grinders, guitar strums and conversations came to a halt as the guest speaker was introduced to the young adult Catholics on hand.
This was the scene as the Imperial Valley Young Adult Ministry began to close out 2019 with their penultimate event – “Java with Jesus” featuring David Bates – on Dec. 20 at Brickhouse Coffee in Imperial.
David Bates shared tips about how to talk about faith during his presentation. He’s a native of England who works as a software engineer in San Diego. He explores and defends his Catholic faith in his talks and publishes a blog, “Restless Pilgrim.”
It was just one of the events the ministry has been holding in the latter half of the year, “and we’re not going to stop,” said Brianah Wong, its event coordinator in the alley.
“We have a lot of diocesan support, and that really helps because it makes the valley feel recognized – important – (like) we’re not just leftovers from everything else going on in the rest of the diocese,” Wong said.
Noting that the ministry’s events are starting out small but growing, “the goal isn’t to get bigger; it’s to get deeper.”
“We’re actually growing in friendship, as leaders and young adults, and we’re starting to realize that, ‘Hey, I do want to share my faith with others,’” Wong said. “Just knowing that we’re doing this at a consistent level shows the strength that people have in their own faith life and as a community.”
Alejandra Moya is a member of the Imperial Valley Task Force for Young Adult Ministry, developed by the diocese in recent months after the Young Adult Synod. She said local young adults are deciding the activities and events they want to hold, and receiving the diocese’s support, which is making a difference.
“I think it’s going to flourish into something that will definitely last here in the valley,” Moya said.
Young adult Catholics are gradually recognizing this opportunity.
“I see in the community these leaders in each parish and it’s amazing to see that we’re not alone and that we’re going to work together to spread the Word of God,” said Mary Arvizu, current Calexico resident and the former young adult leader at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Imperial.
Arvizu said there has always been a passion and need for Catholic young adult events in the valley. But developing a ministry has been “difficult to start because the young adult life gets in the way.”
Arvizu, who has a 1-year-old son, said “Jesus with Java” was the first young adult event in the valley she has been able to attend since starting a family with her husband, Luis.
“It was amazing,” she said of the event. “In looking back three to four years ago…it’s always in God’s timing, and I think it’s God’s timing right now.”
“I think it was a very great event and great turnout,” Arvizu continued. “It’s amazing to see the people from the Imperial Valley getting together.”
Wong encourages young adults who participate in the Imperial Valley Young Adult Ministry to invite others who are not currently active to “take a little bit of a deeper step” so that “it is not going to feel lonely.”
“We want to invite people to live into this love that we are growing together in the valley,” Wong said. “We’re going to continue to grow and we don’t want anyone to slip (between) the cracks.
“Knowing that there is already a community here now makes it so much easier to slip into the arms of the Lord.”
The final Young Adult Ministry event in the Imperial Valley will be a food sale fundraiser for the ministry on Sunday Dec. 29, 2019 at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Imperial. The ministry will be selling menudo and other breakfast items with a complementary coffee from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. St. Anthony of Padua Church is located at 210 W. 7th St., in Imperial.