Finding another young Catholic, to find Catholic contemporaries, is not always an easy task.
One would suspect the internet would make the process easier. My experience has been, that the internet does help to find organisations like Juventutem, in order to make contact. So the purpose of this post is to share my experience and make some concrete suggestions to help you, the reader, get in touch with more young Catholics.
When I was based in Bournemouth, England, my father was the youngest man in the congregation, I was desperate to find someone, anyone, I could relate to. I would even collar any young visitors to the Church and invite them home for lunch! Bournemouth was known for foreign students, and indeed I made some very good and lasting friends doing this. But foreign students leave. So I turned to the internet to find other young Catholics.
There used to be an online service called Project2030, which provided an online forum for young people to log on, join and organise events, post comments and be involved in online debates on various subjects. That service has now closed (in it's former capacity), but Juventutem is working to change that - but I digress. Through Project2030 I got in touch with some young people, spotted an event in London that I liked the sound of, and just took the plunge.
Like in wild swimming (swimming in lakes and rivers), taking the plunge has it's risks, you never can be absolutely sure if it's safe. Is there a log, or an unseen rock? Well likewise, with Catholic youth groups, it's the same. We don't know of the orthodoxy of the facilitators (Project2030 was run by the Sacred Heart Fathers, and was very liberal), we don't know of the quality of the members. But that's life.
It is very important for us young Catholics to get it into our minds, that nothing is perfect, there is no Saints-only Catholic youth group! Life is not like that, we have to understand that there will be "fruits" and "nuts" everywhere, that's life. But life is about taking the rough with the smooth, and offering it up, not by exacerbating the problem by cliques or by gossip.
So the message is, jump in. By all means test the water. We want to find contemporaries who are going to inspire us to be more holy, guys and gals who want to improve themselves, I'm sure many of us would like to find good men and good women, who may become good husbands or wives. Well we will never find those people unless we take the plunge.
There are lots of Catholic groups out there, I've tried a lot of them and please remember the following is my experience, my opinions, and are not relative to objective truth. Please try them for yourselves.
Project2030 when it was running, was great for it's social side and online forums, but it's theological and liturgical side, left a lot to be desired.
Youth2000 was good for the togetherness of it's prayer meetings, but it tended to lean towards the younger, more casual audience, and to be honest I found that it's theological and liturgical side was a little like follow-on formula for children...
Inspire was great for it's social side, but was nigh-destroyed by politics and in-fighting.
Catholic Boogie Nights as far as I know, this is not happening any more, it was very sporadic and unabashedly a forum for young Catholic women to meet young Catholic men.
Catholic Underground very "progressive", "Catholic" pop music, etc. Went once, never went back.
Goum (not surprised if you haven't heard of that one, I was the first person from the British Isles ever to have joined a group) was outstanding for it's via, it's way, but it's Italian or French, very hard work, not for the faint-hearted, and liturgically it tends to be liberal, but not necessarily. If you are interested in learning more about, or doing a Goum, contact me!
Young Catholic Adults well this group changed my life, they have an annual retreat at Douay Abbey. Orthodoxy - very very good. Liturgy - outstanding. Company - excellent, from all walks of life, hat tip to Teresa, Philip and Damian. What I didn't know was that Young Catholic Adults is the original affliate of Juventutem in the UK.
Juventutem - Juventutem groups vary from place to place. London, because it's London, is the largest group, attracting the largest number of young people. There's room for everyone. And you can be assured that the orthodoxy is very very good, the Liturgy is outstanding and the company is great.
Integrity & Action - probably the most inspiring Catholic action group for young people, I have ever come across. I worked on the Youth2000 mission team for a while, and we would do street evangelisation, but nothing in comparison with these guys and gals. Integrity & Action is an SSPX youth movement, and I think we (Juventutem) have a lot to learn from them. I have never joined one of their meets, but have prayed side-by-side with them in protest of the Warrick Street sodomite Mass, and at several Pro-Life vigils. My impression was that they were all very nice people and very well informed when it came to Catholic Apologetics. SSPX, yes, but personally I would love to do more work with them - "give credit where credit is due".
So that's my appraisal, hopefully it is research well done and I hope it will help you to find what you are looking for.
You may think I am biased, but Juventutem is the best I have found, it embodies nearly everything I look for in a youth group. Of course it is not perfect. Some Juventutem groups are very focussed on the liturgy, and the social side is less, some Juventutem groups (like Reading) is much more social, and there are fewer Masses. There are problems, but that's life, we're all subject to selfishness and sin!
There is work to be done, Juventutem is always in need of new members and new volunteers to help out. So "jump in" try the next nearest (or not so near) Juventutem event. And please drop a comment on anything I have mentioned.