On the Front Lines of Retaining Young Adults as Active and Faithful Catholics

Maggie Riggins is on the front lines of bringing the Light of Christ to young adults in the Diocese of Allentown to help keep them engaged in their faith.

Statistics show that many young people begin to fall away from Catholicism and eventually leave the Church as they finish high school. Riggins, in her job as head of Young Adult and Campus Ministries, aims to help change that.

“Our goal is to recognize the spiritual needs of the young adult community and then determine how the Church can respond boldly to those needs,” she said.

“We want to show young adults that we care about them, and about their everyday pastoral needs.”

The Diocese’s creation of a new Young Adult ministry position in a difficult time of financial stress and workforce reductions demonstrates the importance of reaching 18-35 year-olds, supporting their needs and fostering a relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Sustaining a robust ministry to youth and young adults is a spiritual investment in the future of the Church,” said Bishop Alfred Schlert. “These young Catholics will be the next generation of married couples, mothers and fathers, priests, and religious men and women. They will be the next wave of active parishioners and consecrated laity. We all have a responsibility to form them well at this point in their faith development.”

Riggins worked for 20 years in campus ministry positions at DeSales University, most recently as director. She has been active in advocating for effective campus ministry in statewide and national organizations, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A native of Morea, Schuylkill County, she holds dual Bachelor’s Degrees, in Theology and Philosophy, from DeSales, and a Master’s Degree in Theology from Villanova.

In her first few months with the Diocese, Riggins has been working on expanding campus ministry programs at Lehigh University, Lafayette College, and Kutztown University – a task made all the more challenging by disruptions in normal college life caused by the Coronavirus.

Weekly Mass, for example, normally a key part of any campus ministry, has taken three different forms at the three campuses: Kutztown students attend in person in the auditorium of the Newman Center, Lafayette students are offered an online Liturgy of the Word because no Masses are permitted while the campus is fully virtual, and Lehigh students attend the Sunday afternoon Mass at Holy Ghost Parish in Bethlehem while the university’s Packer Chapel remains closed.

“It’s been an exercise in creativity,” Riggins says, giving credit to student leaders in the various programs who have stepped forward with innovative ways to reach students remotely.

Riggins also credits members of the Diocese’s Commission for Young Adults for helping to recommend ways to connect with Millennials and others in the 18-35 age range.

“With the help of the Holy Spirit,” she says, “we will reach young people at a key time in their lives and help them encounter the saving love of Jesus Christ, and thus become and remain faithful, life-long Catholics.”


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