After months of living in the middle of a deadly pandemic and the social isolation that has come along with efforts to control it, it’s little wonder that many Americans are feeling stressed, if not downright depressed. And it’s not just your imagination. The Census Bureau recently conducted a survey that showed that a third of Americans are displaying signs of clinical anxiety or depression, the Washington Post reported. That’s significantly higher than it’s been in “normal” times, before the novel coronavirus began spreading around the world late last year.
There might not be a time in most people’s memory when there’s been more need for the virtue of hope.
So the appearance of a new Catholic young adult organization and the scheduling of its first national conference could be considered providential.
Crossroads 4 Christ — or C4C, as members usually refer to it — began planning for its first national conference last year, but when lockdowns and shutdowns threw their plans into uncertainty, organizers turned it into an online event.
The originally planned theme — Reasons for Hope 2020 — could hardly be more relevant.
In fact, the first reading for the Mass on the conference’s last day was from 1 Peter 3, which urges Christians to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”
“Our conference team was astounded at how providential it is that today’s Mass readings included these words,” said a followup email to participants. “After all the disruptions to our original in-person conference … it was a blessing to see that our original inspiration to proclaim hope to this generation has been confirmed.”
C4C was founded during a bus ride home to Connecticut after the 2015 visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia. Developing a vision and format to provide both spiritual formation and Christian fellowship to young adults, the group grew in numbers, spawning new branches around the state. There are now six chapters, with plans to expand throughout New England and eventually the rest of the country. Members have taken up service projects in their parishes and evangelized their friends. Some non-Catholic members have found their way into the Church.
“Young adults looking for community have found it,” Travis Moran, executive director, said in an interview. “We‘ve heard stories of young adults who have been struggling, even sometimes with anxiety, depression, and loneliness, and have found a lot of consolation in being involved in the chapter.”
By 2018, C4C was at the point where it could begin offering retreats for members — at one point bringing 85 young people together for a weekend of spiritual reflection. The following year, the time seemed right to begin planning for the organization’s first conference, which would bring chapter members together to listen to some dynamic Catholic speakers.
“We had originally planned an in-person conference for June,” Moran said. “We were hoping for about 300 attendees for a one-day event.”
But then the pandemic threw everything up in the air, and Moran and his team transformed the conference into an event to be live-streamed. Because of that, they were able to bring in more speakers, and ended up having 1,100 people register, almost three times as many as the original plans hoped for.
“You can’t beat being in person,” Moran commented, “but we were very pleased with the way this turned out.”
And the proceedings were stretched out over a week, every evening from May 11 to 16.C4C bills itself as an “intentional community of young adult missionary disciples” who gather each week to facilitate a relationship with Christ and a relationship with other young adults through fellowship, faith sharing, formation, and uniting in prayer.
“The purpose of our gathering is to form bonds of Christ-centered friendships by sharing the joys and struggles of life together, encouraging one another in faith, and being formed into missionary-disciples who are emboldened and equipped to share the Gospel with others,” the Facebook page of the Enders Island chapter says.
Moran explained that the name of the organization came about because the first meeting place was Crossroads Physical Therapy in Columbia, Connecticut, which was founded by his father, Stephen Moran, and where he himself works as a physical therapist. The embryonic group met in the basement of the faith-based practice after hours.
Travis Moran pointed out that his own first name, coincidentally, means “crossroads” and “has always been meaningful to me.” For young adults, he said, there are “so many points of transition that you kind of go through, vocationally or professionally, or where you’re going to live or who you’re going to be with, it’s like you’re standing at a crossroads. It’s the place Christ comes to meet you, and you’re met by the community of believers in the Church, represented by the group chapter and the young adults who are there. It stands for this point of encounter. Pope Francis talks a lot about that ‘culture of encounter,’ and that really resonates with us.
“It’s also the place where you encounter others who want to share faith with you and it’s where you encounter those who are not Catholic or who are torn away from their faith, and you can help evangelize them as well,” he said. “It’s the goal of the group to encounter Christ in the Eucharist and one another in deep friendship and go out to evangelize. It’s our three main things: Eucharist, Friendship and Mission.”
One member who particularly appreciated the fact that the conference was held online is Brandon Kreutz, who belonged to the New Haven chapter and stayed in touch through videoconferencing after he moved to Colorado in March. Because he moved, if it weren’t for the switchover to a virtual conference, he would not have been able to attend.
“All of the speakers and talks were so enlightening and inspiring,” he said. “It was just really amazing for spiritual growth. It was a very important milestone in my life for my own faith.”
KellyAnn Carpentier, also part of the New Haven group, noted that a lot of the speakers were relatively unknown, except for Chris Stefanick, Leah Darrow, and Matt Maher. But, she said, “that was the beauty of it. It’s really beautiful when you can find people who are doing God’s work and bring them to the forefront, because it needs to be shared. [The Church is] so much bigger and so much more than the people we are seeing all the time.”
Carpentier added that in general, C4C consists of young adults “rising up and really being soldiers for Christ, really evangelizing the faith seriously. It’s so much more than just camaraderie building. It’s something solid you can build a foundation on and go from there.”
“When we started planning for our first-ever C4C Conference last year, we fully expected to cover many of the main-line issues that face young adults in the world today: building community after college; navigating relationships to move past our smartphone screen; keeping our faith in a faithless culture; finding time for prayer in a non-stop world, among many others,” said promotional material for the conference. “The past month, however, has been nothing short of unprecedented. These issues still remain, yet the world has seemingly changed forever. After a month of lockdown, sickness, and loss, it’s easy to despair and believe that nothing will ever be ‘normal’ again. It’s easy to be afraid. It’s easy to lose hope.”
But C4C is “taking a stand for the truth that no matter the storms we are facing, we always have a reason for hope in the person of Jesus Christ.”