Young Adults Gathering Testimony #2

This past week we had our first Emmanuel Young Adult Gathering in St. Paul, MN, and I had the privilege of flying from sunny California to icy Minnesota to be a part of it.  As is the norm with community events, there were some challenges getting there – I had a red-eye flight that was delayed by a couple hours, and I wrestled on the way with thoughts of doubt and a desire to just be back in my own comfy bed. But when I arrived, I immediately felt so welcomed by Jeremy and Autumn who changed their morning plans to pick me up and drive me safely to the gathering, passing by several accidents on the icy roads.

During our four days, the most impactful moments for me were the ones centered around music. Isabella, a consecrated sister from the Netherlands, led us in a praise workshop on Monday morning where we sang a Psalm in free-form both together and individually. A heart-pounding experience for many of us, but we shared afterward that it really drew us closer together. Isabella also encouraged us individually to step outside our comfort zones in many ways musically – leading praise, singing Psalms, cantoring at Mass, translating and singing a Dutch song in English – and to call upon the Holy Spirit in all of the discomfort and uncertainty of these new experiences. My favorite experience of the entire weekend was practicing and singing all of our music in 4-part harmony for the Mass celebrated by the archbishop. We spent many moments throughout the weekend discussing praise and Emmanuel music, and our sister Kathleen had the remarkable insight that while lots of praise music is written for soloists, almost all of ours is written for 4-part harmony, which highlights our gift of the unity of the states of life. During that moment and many others throughout the weekend, I was overwhelmed by the joy of being surrounded by diverse brothers and sisters, united in praising Jesus together. 

Our time together was suffused with a strong feeling of family – I felt a sense of unity not only with the brothers and sisters I’ve known for many years, but also with the many that I met for the first time. We had community members join us from Slovenia, Poland, the Netherlands, and Canada, and all four states of life were represented, giving such a tangible representation of our charism as a community. Four brothers and sisters stayed with me at my parents’ house, which led to lots of wonderful conversations in the car, over breakfast, and late into the night over cups of tea. We even had one last beautiful time of praise together on our way to the airport on the last morning.

After this strong experience of communal joy, I was worried that coming back to everyday life would be a letdown. But these past few days – returning to Mass alone in the pew and praise by myself in the car – I have been buoyed by this incredible sense of hope and purpose. What will it look like if I, alongside brothers and sisters near and far, truly live out my community commitments in faithfulness and trust? What can’t God do through us if we listen to the Holy Spirit and follow without reservation? The experience of unity with our brothers and the Holy Spirit wasn’t just a warm fuzzy feeling, but an outpouring of strength for the mission and strength to support and encourage each other in that mission, even when we are physically far apart.  Thank you to those who were present during the gathering, who put so much time and effort into the organization, and to all the others who were united with us in prayer!

This reflection on the North American Young Adult Gathering was written by Bridget Horan, a member of the community who lives in Northern California.

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