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Some Catholic Guidance as They Come of Age

August 31, 2003|Claire Luna | Times Staff Writer

A 22-year-old college student more sure about her spirituality than her future, Corin Navarro is a Catholic in transition.

She came to Anaheim this weekend for the Southern California Renewal Communities' Convention, a three-day event targeted at followers of the Roman Catholic Church's charismatic movement. For the first time, the convention included a young-adult program for college students, and singles and couples in their 20s and 30s.

The young-adult seminars focus on the challenge of balancing faith with a career and relationships. Navarro, who attends Reedley College near Fresno, is the kind of person the program's coordinators are trying to reach.

"I like that they have planned something for right where we are right now," Navarro said, after a Saturday morning panel discussion by a priest and two therapists. "We're not teens, and we're not really secure enough in ourselves yet to be adults."

In a continuing effort to reach out to younger church members, the teen program for middle and high school students was expanded to include a bonus day Friday, featuring testimony from champion kick-boxer Jesse Romero, as well as a Christian comedy troupe, a teen Mass and Catholic rappers.

The 32nd annual conference, with the theme, "Not by Might ... but by My Spirit," drew about 10,000, including nearly 400 who registered especially for the young-adult workshops.

The convention included a Saturday night healing Mass, workshops by experts in the charismatic field, and a closing Mass today. The 2:30 p.m. service is open to the public and will be in the arena at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Based on workshop registration, the most popular seminars this year included "Supercharging Your Spiritual Batteries," "Healing Stress and Anxiety Through Prayer" and "Do Not Be Afraid: Dealing With Your Fears."

Charismatic Catholics combine church tenets with Pentecostal practices and beliefs, including personal infusion by the power of the Holy Spirit. Customs of the movement's adherents include lifting one's arms with hands upturned during prayer and hymns.

Starting seminars for young adults and strengthening the teen program fill a void at such gatherings, said El Segundo engineer Angelo Villaralvo, 33. Lunch partner David Beutel, 26, a Compton high school teacher who has been married four months, agreed.

Catholics often fall away from the church during college and don't return until they have children, if then, the men agreed. They said providing young Catholics with ways to meet others in their faith is key to keeping them in the church.

"I feel that God has led me to my faith, but in no way am I totally secure in it," Villaralvo said. "That's why it's good to meet other young Catholics, so we can talk about, and deal with, that confusion."

Program coordinator David Granucci, 40, of West Covina, said that was the main goal of the special gathering. "We're trying to build a sense of community for them," he said. "Being a person of faith can be lonely when you're that age."

Before the young adult session began Saturday, a group of musicians brought the crowd to its feet with Christian pop music. Young nuns in navy blue habits grinned as they clapped in time.

The panel's members complimented attendees on their energy and collected inquiries for an after-lunch interactive session. Navarro submitted questions on discerning between God's will and her own, in picking her career path and her significant others.

"I know that I should rely on prayer," she said, "but I'm also looking for something more in terms of advice. Coming to these sessions was about finding direction for my faith."

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