One of the newest forms of ministry supported by the Young Adult Office of the Diocese of Cleveland comes in the form of a pod.
For those unfamiliar with pods, they are a growing method used for social gatherings. Getting comfortable with a pod is a positive outcome evolving from pandemic life.
A pod is a gathering of a core group of friends, family, or members of an organization who come together for similar cause. Currently, the diocesan Young Adult Office has four organized pods: Parma, Solon/Chagrin, downtown and in the western suburbs. In addition, there are five more pods in formation, according to Mike Hayes, director of the Young Adult Office, which falls under the umbrella of the Parish Life Secretariat.
The Parma Pod had its first event on June 30, beginning with a 7 p.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop Edward Malesic. Dinner and a social gathering followed. Forty-five young adults attended the event at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Parma.
During the social gathering, Bishop Malesic shared what he learned during the pandemic.
“When I reflect on the pandemic, I realize how much community is important. And that is exactly what this young adult pod represents: a community full of faith,” he said.
The bishop also said he felt that masks are symbolic to Catholics and encouraged young adults not to hide behind the mask, but instead to have the courage to reveal who they are as believers in Christ. He concluded his talk by reminding the crowd to be people of charity, saying that this outward showing of love demonstrates how Catholics are filled with the Holy Spirit.
“Having Bishop Malesic here for this first pod event sharing his thoughts on spirituality post-pandemic truly resonates with our young adults,” said Father Josh Cochrac, a parochial vicar at St. Charles Borromeo. “It’s such a blessing and a great way for young men and women to collaborate in faith.”
The parish pod structure began developing before the pandemic. In 2019, Hayes met with Alex Yates, a parishioner at Holy Angels in Chagrin Falls. At the time, Yates was trying to organize a structured group of young adults.
“There was not one parish that had a critical mass of young adults,” Hayes said. “Alex Yates’ idea was to have all the young adults in the area come together from three or four neighboring parishes.”
Soon, a parish pod was born, with one parish agreeing to take the lead in hosting an event the same time and place each month. The remaining parishes rotate a second event each month. According to Hayes, it takes the pressure off and still provides the local area with two young adult events each month in a given area.
“Young Adult ministry is all about being in the experience-making business. The experience we are offering young people is an experience of meeting Christ in whatever we offer," Hayes said. His office provides each of the four pods with assistance in finding guest speakers and obtaining financial aid and assistance with communication and marketing.
Joe Vicario of St. Columbkille Parish led a team of young adults in that parish’s Catching Fire ministry group before the pandemic. They gathered weekly for prayer and conversation on topics relevant to young adults, including current events and social pressures. Vicario contacted Hayes and said the St. Columbkille group felt called to do more.
“The timing was perfect,” Hayes said. “I was able to share the parish pod method and the format that the Solon/Chagrin Pod established.”
In addition to regular gatherings, some parish pods focus on service days.
“A future goal would be to have the pod leaders come together and organize a young adult conference,” Hayes said.