Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry
“I have had the distinct honor and blessing to be called to work with adolescents and young adults for the past twelve years of my life. They are not just the future of the Catholic Church but a vital, creative and energetic part of our Church today. Young people today need to be invited and encouraged to take part in all ministries of our faith. They indeed will lead our Catholic forward for generations to come.”
Keeping this in mind, we have the obligation to advocate for our young people and mentor & guide them through various stages of their growth and experiences. We need to realize that we cannot just go on as we always have but to adjust and mold to the present generations requiring conversion of thought and maybe action. Just because we always did it one way does not mean it is not right to change and evolve.
What’s different about the young people of today from when you where growing up?
The present generations of adolescents and young adults are spiritual people that have an incredibly high aptitude for technology and an immediate need for answers and response. It’s just the way it is. We need to be able to answer and respond in the manner that they are looking for. We need to adapt to them, NOT them to us!
What do you find helps to build solid relationships with young people?
We need to provide young people with rich and lively liturgies, current and in-depth conversations, and open and inclusive experiences. These are key concepts to walking with and working with young people in the any church today. I have found that asking what they want to see or need and planning with them rather than for them gives young people a trust in me and I become a reliable and entrusted person in their lives. I do not need to enjoy everything they enjoy, but to understand them and work in conjunction with them, and add the element of inclusivity that is essential to building a relationship.
Loving them as Jesus loves them, understanding them as Jesus understands them and making allowances as Jesus makes for all of us makes for a good and lasting relationship with adolescents and young adults. It is not necessary to “reinvent the wheel,” as they say. Involve them in present day ministries and activities and service already established. Let them have a voice in how our Church runs and functions. Many times looking at things through their perspective brings new insights that we haven’t thought of.
Can you give some specifics as to how you go about this?
There are several areas that we need to be sure and include when planning and scheduling programming with youth. These are the eight areas mentioned in the USCCB pastoral plan, Renewing the Vision: a Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry. For well rounded and comprehensive ministry we must include: Catechesis, Prayer and Worship, Advocacy, Leadership Development, Justice and Service, Community Life, Evangelization and Pastoral Care. And we need to put these eight areas in the settings of Family, Parish, School and the Wider Community. After all, aren’t these what all of us need in order to be active, participating disciples of the Catholic Church?
Spending time to help young people recognize the gifts and talents they were given and how to use these gifts and talents is key to their discipleship. If they do not recognize their gifts or do not know how to use them, leads to trouble. It is when they are mentored and guided in their service to one another and others that they recognize the common good their gifts are meant to be used for.
What have you learned in dealing with young people? How have they inspired you in your ministry?
The young adults are faith filled, spiritual people who recognize the gifts God has given them and are openly sharing their gifts for the betterment of those around them and around the world. They reach out near and far. They are willing to sacrifice to share their gifts and spread God’s word their actions and words. The humanity of these young people is even more amazing! They have done so many great things already in their young lives, yet they are incredibly humble about their accomplishments and actions. They do not find their deeds or actions out-of-the-ordinary because it is a natural way for them to live their Christian lives. It is so natural for them to give and do and love freely and not expect a thing in return.
So often we only hear and see and acknowledge the bad or evil or negative side of young people’s lives. I have found young people are prayerful, introspective, spirited people moved to share the Spirit within them. They are contagious and inspiring. They fill me and all around them with hope and excitement for the future of the Catholic Church and the world. But once you spend some time with the caliber of young people I have encountered, most of which are amazing people to carry forth the goodness and progress of humankind and the Catholic faith. If you are ever concerned about the future of the Catholic Church or even the world, just spend some time with young people of the Catholic faith.