April 1, 2023 | Local News, Young Adult
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Fr. Corey Bruns, parochial vicar of St. Joseph Parish in Bowling Green, speaks at a BG Catholics event. COURTESY OF BG CATHOLICS

Church ‘young and alive in my own town’

BG Catholics group thrives while serving local young adults


“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” – Matthew 18:20

In 2018, Holy Spirit Parish in Bowling Green embarked on a journey – a mission – to assist the Church at large with one question: Why are churches losing young people? This question is not one just on the minds of Catholic churches, but of all Christian denominations alike. In 2018, Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology was awarded a grant from the Lilly Foundation to help answer that question. Their mission was, and still is, to respond to the challenge of connecting today’s young adults (ages 23-29) with Catholic parishes. Holy Spirit in Bowling Green was one of 12 parishes east of the Mississippi to be selected by Saint Meinrad for their Young Adult Initiative.

The primary goal for parishes involved in this initiative is to engage with young adults and design innovative ministries to effectively meet their spiritual needs. Over the course of the initiative, Holy Spirit Parish has received grant funding to facilitate this mission through different efforts, including hosting Bible studies, socials, brunches, Adoration services, praise and worship, coffee hours, and the like. Theology on Tap has brought many young people out to explore different topics and listen to an array of speakers at various restaurants and venues around Bowling Green. Some of our favorite social events have been celebrating Mardi Gras with traditional cuisine and flair (thanks, Fr. Corey Bruns!), Galentine’s Day with a women’s brunch, and All Saints Day with a “Dress As Your Favorite Saint” costume party.

Our initial goal was to serve the needs of Holy Spirit Parish, but God had bigger plans.

“As someone who did not grow up in Bowling Green, it was challenging to find community,” said Allie Irons. “Not only that, I had moved into the area in the summer of 2020 – right in the midst of Covid! Things were shut down, people weren’t gathering like they used to, and it felt very isolating. Because I could not find community easily, I decided to go to Fr. Ryan at St. Joe’s and ask if we could start getting young adult Catholics together.”

Two young adults enjoy this year’s BG Catholics Mardi Gras party. COURTESY OF BG CATHOLICS

Not long after, in 2021, Holy Spirit Young Adults merged with St. Joseph Parish’s young adult group to create BG Catholics. BG Catholics is a regional group that leads young adults ages 18-39 into relationship with Jesus and equips them to become lifelong missionary disciples. BG Catholics serves the Bowling Green community along with people from Western Kentucky University (St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center), Glasgow, Russellville, Scottsville, Franklin, and more.

“I have really enjoyed being a part of BG Catholics,” said Christy Winn. “I have made some close friends from the group and have loved watching the community grow!”

“Having good Catholic community is so vital in living out the faith, to see and know that others are running this race with you,” said Gina Newberry. “BG Catholics also provides unique opportunities to share the Catholic faith with others. Just a simple invitation and learning to walk with the people God places in your life is one of the most powerful tools we have for evangelization and everything about the Catholic faith is worth sharing and sharing in.”

While we haven’t really “reinvented the wheel” in ministry, we have learned a lot about how to engage with young adults and what is important: community. At the end of the day, we all seek to nurture authentic relationships, to learn more about our faith, and most importantly, to deepen our relationship with Christ. We have found that creating space for young adults to simply be in community among like-minded peers can be the beginning of lifelong discipleship and commitment to Christ. While this goal is simple, it requires the commitment of a team of people who are dedicated to not only creating that space for young adults but personally inviting them into it and allowing Christ to encounter his people where they are gathered.

“Attending the Marti Gras party was a great way for me to see the Church being young and alive in my own town,” said Joseph McGinnis. “I think that an important and commonly overlooked aspect of our faith is community, and that’s precisely why I appreciate BG Catholics so much for opening the window of opportunity to encounter other young adults and opening the door to get involved in the Catholic community here in Bowling Green.”

BG Catholics was selected to continue into the second phase of Saint Meinrad’s Young Adult Initiative, and we look forward to sharing our experience with others and creating space for young adults to encounter Christ through community in other areas of our diocese.

If your parish is interested in expanding your young adult efforts and looking for guidance, please feel free to contact Allison Steen-Baker at [email protected].

Originally printed in the April 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
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