Over a thousand people from all over the world gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Shalom Catholic Community at a convention in Rome last week. The theme of the Convention was “Friends of God, friends of the young and friends of the poor.” The celebration took place in the main Basilicas of Rome: Saint Mary the Major, San Giovanni in Laterano, and Saint Paul Outside the walls. Talks, Masses, praise and worship, roundtables, adoration, concerts, and much more encompassed the week-long celebration.
For Adam St Laurent, a young adult from Brooklyn, the Community has been very important to his experience of God and the Church. He says:
“It was truly amazing, being with a group from New York and growing in closeness and love through the love of God, and getting to know them better, as I see them just once a week.
Another experience was to experience Shalom. The Community is so big and in my mind it was so small as I know just the missionaries who are in New York. To see the size in Shalom, to see the families in Shalom, the Shalom babies, it was just so beautiful to experience the power of Mass and the singing.”
One of the main celebrations in the Convention was for the whole Community to be in a private audience with the Pope. The meeting took place in Paul VI Hall. On this occasion Adam, who was recently baptized, had the opportunity to meet with the Pope and renew the offering of his life in the heart of the church.
“To meet the pope was really an honor, it was an honor to be a testimony of something that started 40 years ago in Brazil and to be a testimony of the fruit that the Shalom Community is bearing now here in New York City. To be a testimony to all the missionaries as they left the 99 in search of the one and to be that one is very special to me, it’s kind of emotional.
It is also a testimony of someone who a couple of years ago could not go one day without alcohol and drugs in his system and living in darkness and pain and praying daily to die is like now being born again and shaking the hand of the successor of Saint Peter, someone you can follow back all the way to Christ Himself and it’s just a beautiful example of the mercy and grace of God, it’s just such a beautiful example that we can come back from such a low and to be there it’s such a highlight in my life.”
And even though Adam’s encounter with the Pope was a unique experience in his life, on that day, something even more extraordinary happened:
“I learned a lot from it and I can say over and over that as great as it is in my life it was the second best thing that happened to me in that journey, it was the second best thing because receiving the eucharist later on that evening brought me joy as I never felt and probably the most joyful eucharist that I have ever experience in my life, to be in communion with Christ it is what is all about. How special that is! That to have the example of this monumental moment of my life and then for it to so small compared to receive the eucharist, it was just very powerful!”
Adam represents the reality of many young adults from New York City. For a long time he struggled with addiction to alcohol and drugs. He grew up without religion and faced many challenges in his family and social life. Adam started overcoming his addictions five years ago through a program that holds weekly meetings at San Damiano Mission Catholic Church in the Diocese of Brooklyn. When the missionaries of the Shalom Catholic Community began their apostolic works there in 2020, they invited Adam to Mass, praise and worship, and hangouts, and, in this way, Adam was introduced to the Church.
Adam started participating in the activities of the Shalom Community in Williamsburg one year ago. He was baptized in the Easter Vigil Mass this past April, confirmed in the Vigil Mass of Pentecost this past May, and in this same year he had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis.
He finishes sharing his testimony in those days of celebration saying:
“And I really left there with the calling of mission, I left there willing to do more. There is such an example of the power that Christ can use us as tools, that He can work through us. I left there with a call to get closer to Shalom, I feel that Shalom has brought me as a family member, even if I don’t know a lot of the missionaries, everyone made me feel so welcome in the smiles, you know the love that I felt the entire time, it was just truly beautiful and I just feel the call to be closer to that, and my best to show the gratitude is to say ‘yes’ and going forward and it’s my turn to go and leave the 99 to find the one, it’s up to me to let Christ work through me and help others.”
Adam’s life and testimony is a spark of hope for the evangelization of New York City. His life inspires the missionaries and those who attend the prayer groups to trust more and more that Jesus is alive, God is powerful, and He makes all things new.