TRENTON, NJ - Finding meaning and purpose in life, navigating through relationships and understanding the call of social justice are among the topics that will be explored at the Diocese of Trenton’s first-ever young adult conference set for May 4 in St. Mary Church, Colts Neck.

With the theme Encounter the Light of Christ, the day-long event will bring together Catholics and those who want to learn more about the faith, ranging in age from 18 to 35.  Participants will have an opportunity to hear from local and national faith speakers, interact in sharing groups, and pray and worship together. The day will begin at 9:30 a.m. with coffee and fellowship, and culminate with the 5 p.m. Mass in St. Mary Church.

Expansive research on today’s young adult Catholics has revealed that they view their Church very differently than previous generations – that they want to be invited to participate in their faith and challenged to make a difference in their world. The diocesan-sponsored gathering will aim to deliver on what young adults say they want, according to Caridad Barillas, coordinator of young adult ministries.

“In this Year of Faith, the emphasis is to reach out to all Catholic young adults that are practicing their faith or not, to meet them where they are. What are their concerns that prevent them from being active in parish life? What opportunities can the parish provide to help in everyday life, and to walk with them in their faith journey?”

Leading the day’s speakers will be Rich Curran, founder of the Parish Success Group, who will deliver the keynote address. Curran, a former director of youth ministries for the Dioceses of Plainfield, Ill., and Green Bay, has served as a counselor and outreach worker for abused and neglected children with Catholic Charities in the inner city of Minneapolis, Minn.

The national speaker has been helping teens and adults find meaning and purpose in their lives for more than 15 years with his messages of hope and invitation to embrace the gifts God has given. He and his wife live with their two sons in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Faith issues relevant to today’s young adult Catholics will be explored in workshops offered during both the morning and afternoon. Presenters include Matthew Greeley, associate director of communications for the diocese, who will examine the topic of Strengthening Relationships: Tug of War or Tug of Love. Greeley, with a background in youth and young adult ministry, now coordinates the diocese’s Spanish-language communications, including the quarterly newspaper, Peces, and the television program Cristo Para Todos.

Social worker Widian Nicola will speak on Catholic Social Justice. The native of Palestine is a former program coordinator for the Center for Faith Justice in Lawrenceville and now works with Trenton-based Isles, Inc., a nationally recognized and award winning community development and environmental nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster more self-reliant families in healthy, sustainable communities.

Father Alberto W. Tamayo’s workshop will take a look at Marriage and Family Life. Father Tamayo, former secretary to the bishop, serves as administrator in Corpus Christi Parish, Willingboro.

Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Ruth Bolarte will guide participants as they Encounter Jesus the Person. Sister Ruth, a native of Peru, was the former director of the Catholic Institute for Evangelization in Philadelphia where she was involved with formation of lay leadership and faith formation programs in Spanish. She currently serves as the director of multi-cultural ministries for the Diocese of Metuchen.

At the conclusion of the workshops, attendees will be divided into groups by age and marital status for a sharing session. The groups will reunite into a session led by Curran; and opportunities for prayer and Mass.

Young adults throughout the region are invited. The cost of the conference is $10. A light breakfast and lunch are included. The church complex of St. Mary Parish is located at 1 Phalanx Road, Colts Neck, 07722.

Young adults can register before April 22 online at www.dioceseoftrenton.org/youngadults, or contact coordinator Barillas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 609-403-4175.

The Diocese of Trenton comprises 109 parishes spread across Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties.