Young adults embracing Eucharist-centered events
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Several Salt & Light events for young adults are planned in the next few months:
• April 8, Community Mass, 7 p.m. at Blessed Sacrament, social to follow
• May 6, Theology on Tap, 7 p.m., at the District on Commerce
• June 10, Ember Days Adoration and Solemn Vespers, 7:30 p.m., at the Cathedral,
followed by a social at the District on Commerce
Ember Days have nothing to do with sitting around a campfire, according to Fr. Clay Kimbro, it’s an ancient seasonal practice he’s working into the Salt & Light ministry for young adult Catholics.
Fr. Kimbro, the parochial vicar at St. Anne Parish in Wichita, said the term is derived from two Latin words meaning four times and is used to highlight the four seasons of the year.
“I was given the idea by a couple of friends and Fr. Garett Burns who mentioned that if we were going to have a quarterly adoration it could be based around Ember Days,” he said.
Fr. Burns is the parochial vicar at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Wichita.
Fr. Kimbro said those in the Diocese of Wichita are fortunate to be able to experience the four seasons. He added that Ember Days was the church’s way to supplant seasonal pagan feasts in ancient Rome. “It’s the church’s effort to bless the changing of the four seasons, to pray for human progress, for human growth, and for the produce, the fruits of the earth.”
It is especially appropriate for a heavily agricultural area of the country to remember those blessings, he said.
“Ember Days are based on the harvest in concert with the liturgical year,” Fr. Kimbro said. “That is why we chose it for the Year of the Eucharist because all of the harvests are based around things we provide as a community for the altar.”
Event held on March 11
The most recent Ember Days event, held March 11 at Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Wichita, is meant to celebrate bees that pollinate flowers and give us the wax for altar candles.
“So in that way we honor the light of Christ and the light that pushes out the darkness,” he said.
In June the focus will be the wheat harvest that provides the bread for the Eucharist; in September grapes that provide the wine are honored; and in December, olives are honored for the holy oils used in the sacraments.
“It seemed appropriate for us to get together to pray for progress for growth for our community, especially for Salt & Light, for so many young people who fell away from the church, for them to come back to us and come back to the faith.”
Fr. Kimbro said if one studies Matthew 5:13-16, when Jesus talks about the salt of the earth he is referring to the fertilizer they used to nurture their crops. “What we’re trying to do here with Salt & Light is to provide more opportunities for growth, for discipleship, and for an encounter with the Lord.”
Pandemic affected gatherings
Salt & Light suffered during the pandemic because young adults couldn’t gather as they had before, he said. “We had our sports leagues, which were able to operate outside, but it felt as if we were turning into a social club.”
Ember Days and other planned activities are focused on giving young adults an opportunity to encounter the Lord in adoration and at Mass, Fr. Kimbro said.
“We have revived the practice to bring people together every three months to pray and fast for the growth of our community, for the growth of our diocese, but especially for all those young people who might be away from the faith.”
Fr. Kimbro said about 70 young adults took part in the Ember Days at Church of the Blessed Sacrament where he and Fr. Burns heard confessions.
“We want to put together mature worship, to provide events that people want to come to,” Fr. Kimbro said.
Heidi Jirak, the Monthly Event coordinator, complimented those who took part in the March 11 holy hour at Blessed Sacrament. “It was dedicated to the prayer and the encouragement of fasting that goes along with the tradition of Ember Days.”
Prayer and fasting
Fr. Kimbro proclaimed the Gospel and delivered a sermon on the necessity to pray and fast – the tradition of Ember Days, she said, adding that he also talked about his hope to revitalize the practice within the Salt & Light community.
Jirak, a member of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Parish, said those attending the March 22 Ember Days event reflected on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 1966 Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence: “We suggest that the devout will find greater Christian joy in the feasts of the liturgical calendar if they freely bind themselves, for their own motives and in their own spirit of piety, to prepare for each Church festival by a day of particular self-denial, penitential prayer, and fasting.”
Catholic young adults know how to feast and celebrate, Jirak said, “but it is a lovely and lofty ideal for us to also seek to abstain and fast in preparation for the feasts, which is certainly what Holy Mother Church asks of us in the constant ebb and flow of feasts and fasts throughout the liturgical year. I think the Salt & Light community gave a solid ‘yes’ to that call in March, and we hope throughout the rest of this year.”