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By: Kevin Bohli, Director of Youth Ministry

At a recent training, I learned that more than half of the Catholics in our country who were born after 1982 are Hispanic — 54 percent, according to a recent Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) study [1].  The Office of Youth Ministry has been trying to increase our ministry to young Hispanics with some success, but this statistic served as a real wake-up call. We certainly have the goal to host youth events in this diocese and in our parishes that offer a better reflection of the cultural make-up of the Church.

For each of our events, we advertise in both English and Spanish. Mass is typically bilingual, and we attempt to offer speakers and music who are attractive to young Hispanics. We work hard to make sure that youth from all cultures feel welcomed at all of our diocesan gatherings.

Futbol 2 Occasionally, we also offer events that are specifically focused on Hispanic youth, in order to encourage parish Coordinators of Youth Ministry to increase their efforts to invite Hispanic teens from their parish to participate. Two weekends ago, we offered a diocesan Soccer Festival (Festival de Fútbol) for this purpose. This festival allowed youth from throughout the diocese to gather together and compete in a 6-on-6 soccer tournament. Parishes and organizations could enter teams in either the middle or high school division, and families of the teens were encouraged to attend.

FutbolThis year’s theme for our entire calendar of events is “Go Forth and Make Disciples,” or in Spanish “Vayan Adelante y Hagan Discípulos.” Our emphasis is that all adults who work with young people need to take them from a place where they will simply tolerate spiritual growth and move them toward taking their own initiative to grow spiritually. This happens when adults build relationships with young people and walk alongside them in forming them in the faith.

How appropriate that our diocesan Soccer Festival began with a bilingual Mass celebrated by Fr. Mauricio Pineda, a newly ordained priest and parochial vicar at All Saints in Manassas. Fr. Pineda grew up in the Arlington Diocese, and is a living example of what happens when adults provide ministry focus, specifically upon young Hispanics. When adults build relationships with young people, and act as a witness of Christ in their lives, those young people not only take initiative for their own growth, but then take the initiative to lead others in their spiritual growth. As a young Hispanic priest from the Arlington Diocese, Fr. Pineda now is a role model, and a witness of Christ in leading our next generation of young Hispanics to grow in their faith.

Just before His Ascension, Our Lord entrusted the Church with a mission that is still in need of fulfillment today: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” [2] Please continue to pray for our diocesan community — that we continue to bring this message to all young people, from all nations.


[1] USCCB, Hispanic Ministry At A Glance, 2012, http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/cultural-diversity/hispanic-latino/demographics/hispanic-ministry-at-a-glance.cfm.

[2] Matthew 29:19, NAB.

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By: Kevin Bohli, Director of Youth Ministry

“The Church which ‘goes forth’ is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice.”  -The Joy of the Gospel, 24

The Coordinators of Youth Ministry (CYMs) from across the Arlington Diocese gathered yesterday for an energetic kick-off to the new year of ministry. While most of us just recently finished WorkCamps, summer drop-in programs, and other ministry activities, there was still an amazing energy in the room as we prepare to start the whole process over again for 2014-2015. I am always humbled by the level of commitment that the parish CYMs show in their desire to point young people toward Christ.

Go Forth group CYMsThe day began with an introduction to the theme for the upcoming year, “Go Forth & Make Disciples.” Combining the message of Bishop Loverde in his pastoral letter “Go Forth with Hearts on Fire,” and the message of “going forth” from Pope Francis in chapter one of his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, the Office of Youth Ministry prayerfully discerned this to be a timely focus for the CYMs this year. Part of the day was meant to teach the CYMs about the various levels of commitment that young people make in their spiritual lives, and how we can safely build relationships with them to move them forward to a deeper level of commitment.

Fr. Tom Ferguson, Episcopal Vicar for Faith Formation, celebrated Mass as a prayerful preparation for the year, and carefully wove an excellent parallel between Jesus’s parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14) and the role of the CYM (minus, of course, the angry murderous mob). CYMs work very hard to invite young people to become more involved in parish life, but like the guests invited to the wedding feast, some ignore the invitation.

I had the opportunity to sit with the CYMs of Deanery 6 as they reflected on the privilege of discipleship, and personal examples of how they have seen young people turn to the Lord through their youth ministry. Each recalled beautiful recent stories: young people inviting their friends to daily Mass throughout the summer, teens verbally declaring their newfound love for Christ, and teens inviting 30 others to regularly pray the Liturgy of the Hours at the conclusion of their weekly meeting. Many young people desire to live a life for Christ, and just need another adult or teen to proclaim the Gospel to them and to be a witness of how to courageously live that way each day.

As your parish CYM sets off on this new year of ministry, please pray for them, send them notes of encouragement, and perhaps offer to assist them in this ministry. You are invited to share in the exciting and rewarding ministry of helping parents to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to young people.

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By: Kevin Bohli, Director of Youth Ministry

This past week the Arlington Diocese Office of Youth Ministry sponsored the 25th annual WorkCamp in Quicksburg, Va. More than 800 teens, 250 adult leaders, and 100 contractors spent a week repairing homes at 150 worksites. The teens spent the past eight months fundraising and preparing to leave behind their cellphones and video games, sleeping on hard floors, waiting in lines for food and showers, and doing hard physical labor in the 90+ degree weather. The week included daily Mass, regular prayer, and devotions five times each day. Eucharistic Adoration, Confessions, talks and reflections took place each evening, and there were two chapels available for personal prayer time throughout the day.

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On the worksite from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, the teens built wheelchair ramps, replaced roofs and windows, repaired bathroom showers and toilets, patched floors, and many other projects designed to help make the residents’ homes warmer, safer, or drier.

This is hardly a typical first week of summer break for teenagers.

At the end of the exhausting week, the teens were invited to provide feedback on their experience. Here is just a small sample:

“Had the time of my life, no doubt!” –Brian

“I had a really good experience here and I really appreciated going to Confession. I haven’t been in 10 years, so I’m really glad that I went.” –Lia

“WorkCamp didn’t only strengthen my faith in Christ, but it also taught me how much it means to have a relationship with God.” –Michael

“Thank you so much for a great experience; I’ll definitely make time to come next year, even if I am turning 18 that week, because it will be better with God having him near me during that.” –Karen

“I learned about how my service can impact my own life rather than just how it can impact another’s.” –Kevin

“I love going to daily Mass, it helps me feel like I am ready to start the day.” –Gretchen

“The most helpful part of the week was Confession and Adoration – a priest gave me a card for the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which was really cool!” –Megan

“I love WorkCamp! It gives me hope and inspires me to evangelize.” –Casey

“Best experience of my life.” –Macy

“My resident had a big impact on me. She was a living example of our theme to ‘love courageously.’” –Teresa

“I have a greater desire to live my life more for Christ and live more simply.” –Abigail

“WorkCamp has been a powerful experience throughout my high school years. I am lucky to have been able to attend all four years. Thank you.” –RJ

“WorkCamp opens my eyes and I definitely plan to work on being a better friend, deepening my relationship with Christ, and doing more work for the poor.” –Sarah

For 25 years, WorkCamp has helped teens serve the poor in our community. However, perhaps more importantly, it’s through the service, prayer, and community of WorkCamp that young people discover the joy of living a life for Christ.

 

All photos courtesy of Gerald Martineau.

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By: Kevin Bohli, Director of the Office of Youth Ministry

Built on Christ, the theme for Youth Ministry in the 2010 -11 year, was based upon the Pope’s World Youth Day theme for this coming summer, “rooted and built up in Christ, firm in the faith” (cf. Col. 2:7). Each year, the Office of Youth Ministry (OYM) looks to our pontiff for both inspiration and focus as they plan the many trainings, days of reflection, retreats and seminars for diocesan youth ministers, in addition to the annual WorkCamps and high school RALLY.

The OYM is eagerly awaiting a 2011 summer that is filled with excitement. For a second time, they will be hosting two WorkCamp weeks. Winchester will be home to the June WorkCamp, and additional teens will be serving in Woodbridge during July. WorkCamp has again grown significantly as approximately 700 teens from nearly 40 diocesan parishes will be completing about 140 service projects this summer. The work will make homes “warmer, safer and drier” in 14 counties, cities and towns across the diocese this summer.

Additionally, nearly 300 diocesan pilgrims will be traveling to Spain this summer for World Youth Day. All diocesan pilgrims will be attending the 26th World Youth Day events in Madrid, including a unique experience with the diverse, multi-cultural yet universal Church. Also, many of the pilgrims elected to attend the “extended pilgrimage,” a trip that arrives in Spain a week early and travels to Montserrat, Lourdes (France), San Sebastian, Segovia and the Camino de Santiago. This extended trip will include daily Mass, other prayer and devotional exercises and seeks to introduce the pilgrims to ways to grow in their faith, hopefully in such a way that they can bring the experiences home with them and permeate their lives.

The pilgrimage concludes with a Mass with Pope Benedict XVI, which will have a homily based upon the themes outlined in Col. 2:7. This will also mark the end of the youth ministry year that has been “Built on Christ.” The OYM asks that for your continued prayers that all of the teens continue to encounter Christ this summer.

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By: Kevin Bohli

“Every genuine art form in its own way is a path to the inmost reality of man and of the world.” (Pope John Paul II in his 1999 Letter to Artists)

One art form that explores these realities and translates well to working with young people is that of theatre and the dramatic arts.  Acting is one of many creative ways to teach the faith to youth those who watch and those who participate gain a deeper understanding of these “inmost realities” of which our late Holy Father speaks.  He had a love of acting and was himself a playwright – an inspiration to this generation of young thespians.

Acting is as attractive to young people today as ever.  By providing programs and opportunities for them to develop their theatrical gifts, we can help them connect with the Church and grow in their faith. The Office of Youth Ministry hosts an annual competition to showcase these talented youth who find themselves drawn to the bright lights and big stage.

Competitors from 2010

The One-Act Play Competition is one of the longest-running youth ministry events in our diocese. In fact, there used to be a regional competition where the winning plays would continue on to compete against other dioceses, but over time ours is the only one still being held. One-Act is a unique event that draws out young people who might otherwise not get involved in Church life.

In the past few years, a short film component has been woven into the event as a way to reach out to a generation who’s grown up with media outlets like YouTube. By providing young people, especially those who are technologically proficient, with another medium through which to share their talents, interest in the event has increased.

The plays and films in the competition feature only youth as actors, and some are even directed by the teens. Though the plays and films are not explicitly required to demonstrate a Christian teaching, many do provide a Christian message and offer a challenge to the audience to live a Christian lifestyle.

Countless hours are invested in each production, requiring effort and commitment on the part of the youth involved.  The plays are impressively well-rehearsed and performed; oftentimes they are presented again at the home parishes as fundraisers or simply for entertainment.

Teenagers use their God-given talents on stage

All Saints’ Keziah Higginbottom shared that she enjoyed “using and sharing the talent that God gave [me] with others.” Luke Nyman from St. John the Baptist parish remarked, “It is cool when you think about [Pope John Paul II’s] love for drama … and how he is similar to St. John Bosco … both loved to reach the youth however possible, and the arts are a great way to connect with teenagers.”

This year’s One-Act Play Competition and Short Film Festival is being held at Pope John Paul the Great High School in Dumfries on Saturday, March 26. Seven parishes will be presenting their work beginning at 10 a.m. A vigil Mass at 4 p.m. and award presentation will close the day of friendly competition.  All are welcome to come support the young thespians and filmmakers!

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By Kevin Bohli, Director of the Office of Youth Ministry

Every year, thousands of teenagers descend upon Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life. In fact, the events surrounding the March have become inundated with teenagers. The Vigil Mass that is held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., is packed to capacity each year with teenagers forced to sit downstairs in small nooks and crannies without even the possibility of seeing the Mass on one of the television screens. And they are the lucky ones who were actually able to get inside the building!

Yet, they keep coming.

The Youth Rally and Mass for Life that happens each year at the Verizon Center on the morning of the March turns away thousands of would-be participants because there simply is not enough space. This year, the organizers added a second venue so that 20,000 teens could participate at the Verizon Center while 10,000 more could participate at the D.C. Armory. Within seconds of the tickets being available online, their website crashed due to the overwhelming response. Once fixed, the 30,000 tickets were all accounted for and thousands more put their names on waiting lists.

Yet, they keep coming.

3,500 will attend!

Inspired by these numbers, the Offices of Youth Ministry and Respect Life felt called to offer an event this year to help accommodate these crowds. The “Life is VERY Good” event on Sunday, Jan. 23 will consist of a Vigil Mass with Bishop Loverde, a keynote by Bob Rice, and a Holy Hour with music by Matt Maher. Originally planned to be held at a local high school auditorium, the high demand quickly moved the event to the 3,500-seat Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge, Va. The event sold out within days of announcing it, and many hundreds more were turned away. The groups that did get tickets have continued to grow in number and will now be seated in overflow spaces within the building and watching the entire event on closed-circuit TV.

Yet, they keep coming.

The March for Life is a sacrificial event. The weather is almost always cold, rainy, snowy, or all of the above. The crowds are enormous, while the secular press coverage is anything but. The goal is to make a peaceful and prayerful protest against Roe v. Wade. However, in the midst of the craziness of the day, it is easy for a teenager to wonder if their voice even mattered, or if anybody even knew that they were there.

Yet, they keep coming.

While many adults may be growing weary of the abortion debate and have become cynical that change will happen, this is not the case with young Catholics. The message that all life is sacred is not falling on deaf ears; it is falling on young ears. The next generation of Catholics has already taken their place in the prayerful and peaceful campaign for life.

Thank God they keep coming.

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By: Kevin Bohli, Director of the Office of Youth Ministry 

One of the most challenging parts of being a Coordinator of Youth Ministry (CYM) in a parish is finding creative methods of teaching the Faith to teenagers. Attendance at youth ministry programs is rarely mandatory for teens, so the format must be creative and engaging while still able to convey the many important aspects of our faith. In addition, it can be difficult to cover all of the required material over the four-year period that teens participate in a high-school youth ministry program. 

Cover of the new Journey to Emmaus Curriculum

 

The Office of Youth Ministry (OYM) has always encouraged CYMs to use the Secondary Religion Guidelines created by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington as a basis for catechesis. However, in January 2010, the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) published a new document called the Adaptation of Doctrinal Elements of a Curriculum Framework for the Development of Catechetical Materials for Young People of High School Age (now that’s a mouthful!).  Inspired by the U.S. bishops, the OYM wanted to help CYMs to incorporate these doctrinal elements into their youth ministry gatherings. This new four-year, 80-session high school youth ministry curriculum is titled Journey to Emmaus. 

The goal of the new curriculum is to put some “flesh” onto the USCCB curriculum framework and create practical and creative sessions to help CYMs in their ministry to teenagers. The curriculum is written by members of the OYM, youth workers from within and outside the Diocese of Arlington and other prominent national catechists. The weekly sessions contain references to the Secondary Religion Guidelines, Sacred Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Church documents; games and ice breakers; opening and closing prayers; a catechetical talk; and related media suggestions such as music, movies and websites. 

While there are national publishers also attempting to respond to the new catechetical framework, what makes the OYM curriculum unique is that so many of the ideas come from local CYMs who have time-tested and well-planned programs in place already. Additionally, the curriculum will tie in each year to the OYM’s annual theme; the theme of 2010-2011 is “Built on Christ,” inspired by Colossians 2:7. 

The first semester materials have already been distributed to all of the parishes in the diocese and the spring semester’s will be released shortly. It is the hope of the OYM that this new catechetical resource will provide a jump-start to many CYMs in planning their youth meetings and inspire them even more in their efforts to teach the faith to the young people of the diocese.

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