NEW YORK — A new series of discussions taking place on the streets of New York City is shining a light on authentic love and relationships — and cultivating a following that is spreading to other parts of the country.
Love & Responsibility NYC is a 13-week discussion series that was launched last summer on a street in SoHo by Patrick Langrell, director of young-adult outreach for the Archdiocese of New York. It is run by a group of young adults who moderate small-group discussions based on the book Men, Women and the Mystery of Love by Edward Sri, which provides practical insights from John Paul II's Love and Responsibility.
Langrell, 23, read Sri's book early last summer and was captivated by its message and John Paul II's concrete advice for young adults in knowing how to develop authentic and mature relationships.
"It spoke to me personally and to many friends of mine in the city," says Langrell. "I thought it would be good to have a casual setting whereby young adults from all different aspects of life could come together and talk about the issues of relationships and get a renewed understanding of what real friendship looked like. My sentiments — I wish I had read this 10 years ago — were matched by many of the people I talked to."
Last summer's sessions grew quickly from about 70 people to as many as 130, mostly single young adults and some curious onlookers. The popularity of the group paved the way for a Facebook group that currently has 600 followers who read the book on their own and have online discussions. This summer the series moved to the grounds of the Basilica of Old St. Patrick's Cathedral to better accommodate the crowd of nearly 200 who come from as far as three hours away.
"The book really speaks to a universal experience: the nature of love and friendship," says Langrell. "That's the way I've advertised it. It's a topic everyone loves talking about, and it's been hard to wrap up the discussions."
The response has been inspiring, says Ashley Crouch, director of outreach and programs at the Love and Fidelity Network in Princeton, N.J., and a small-group moderator for Love & Responsibility NYC. "So many vibrant relationships have been formed," says Crouch. "I personally have made some of the strongest friendships through the people there."
Genevieve Fiorito works with Langrell at the archdiocese and attends the discussions with her husband, Daniel. "The subject matter is useful for everyone," she says, "whether single or pursuing a religious vocation, married or dating."
Everyone who comes is at a different stage in their faith journey, but all have a thirst for the truth, adds Langrell.
"A lot are exhausted with the culture, and their conscience is calling them to something more," he says. "Hopefully this shows them that there is something deeper, more real and lasting, and another step to the realization that we have a God who loves us and wants an intimate friendship with them."
Barb Ernster writes from Fridley, Minnesota.