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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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By Kevin Bohli 

With Diocesan WorkCamp just one month away, the Office of Youth Ministry is in the midst of the final details for the event. One of the more difficult tasks is finding the homes that the young people will be repairing during WorkCamp. While one does not need to look far to find homes in need of repair throughout Virginia, the challenge is finding people who are willing to invite five teenagers to help them in their current situation. 

Bishop Loverde learns about WorkCamp projects

 

The process of finding the homeowners whom we will be assisting this summer began nine months ago, back in September 2009. This process started by establishing relationships with social service agencies in the communities where we will be serving.  

WorkCamp staff members then meet with the agencies and explain that we are looking to make homes “warmer, safer, and drier.” While cosmetic repairs are appreciated by the homeowner, our goal is to make more substantial repairs to their homes, and thus have a greater impact on their lives. WorkCamp does not have a “means test” for any of its homeowners, meaning that they do not need to pass a minimum income level or meet any other requirement for us to serve them. If a homeowner is willing to open his or her door to our teenagers and request our assistance, then we feel blessed to have the opportunity to help. 

The “ideal” WorkCamp projects include building wheelchair ramps, replacing leaky roofs, inefficient windows and broken gutters and repairing flooring that has been damaged by water. Additionally, WorkCamp volunteers will install wheelchair-accessible showers, repair and replace trailer skirting, widen door frames for wheelchair access, install handicap-accessible toilets and complete painting projects. 

Repairing Decks is just one of many ways which teens serve others at WorkCamp

 

Agencies are asked to submit “project proposal” forms to WorkCamp staff, and site visits follow after the proposals have been reviewed. Every project site is visited by WorkCamp staff with a representative from the agency to facilitate the introduction of WorkCamp. WorkCamp staff members then walk through the home to find repairs within our expertise to complete and to insure that the crew will be working in a safe environment. 

Now that we have located our 140 homes to repair this coming summer, WorkCamp staff members are in the process of completing all of the necessary permits and preparing the volunteer contractors who will be overseeing and teaching the teens to make the professional-quality repairs. 

While the homeowners go out of their way to thank WorkCamp for the home repairs, it is truly WorkCamp that is indebted to them. Without the humility and willingness to invite these teens into their homes and their lives, WorkCamp could not exist, and teenagers would miss an amazing opportunity to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to those in need.

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

It’s that time of year again. Over 1,000 teens across the diocese are preparing for summer work camps.

While the name ‘work camp’ may bring to mind the gulags and prisons of communist Russia, these are not extended punishment experiences for young people. Rather, Work camps are week-long summer service projects for teenagers. Our teens and parishes work hard all year to fundraise, learn tool safety and prepare spiritually for the privilege to attend a work camp.

The goal of these camps is to put young people into relationships with adults while working together on a common service project. The adults share their love of Jesus Christ with the teens and together they witness to that love through serving the less-fortunate.

Organizations across the country offer work camps; some of these camps are run by Catholic organizations, while others are interdenominational. The Diocese of Arlington is one of the few dioceses in the country that has developed our own camp for our own parishes to attend. This WorkCamp (note the official, but not-so-creative name) was developed 20 years ago to help Arlington teens come together for a more intense Catholic experience while also learning that service begins right at home.

Bishop Loverde serving lunch at WorkCamp

Due to the popularity of our annual WorkCamp and the inability for the camp to accommodate more than 500 teens in one week, the Office of Youth Ministry has created two separate weeks of WorkCamp for the summer of 2010. During the first week, June 26 – July 2, we will host over 350 teens in Winchester, Virginia, and during the second week, July 24-30, we will host over 250 teens in Dumfries, Virginia. The students and adults live together in a school that has been transformed into “home base” for the week.

While the dates and locations of these camps are different, they are identical programs in every other aspect. Participants will break into crews of five teens, one adult leader, and one volunteer contractor to repair the homes of the less-fortunate throughout the area. These crews will build wheelchair ramps, replace roofs, floors, and windows, repair drywall and fix leaky plumbing. The crews will also spend time each day building a relationship with the resident that they have the privilege to serve.

Crews work hard to serve others

WorkCamp is not all work! A significant amount of time is spent in prayer, at Mass or participating in small group discussions to help participants process all they are experiencing.  Each evening, various speakers, musicians and other performers will lead to a prayerful and memorable retreat experience. Bishop Loverde will be visiting and celebrating Mass at both weeks of WorkCamp and always demonstrates his servant’s heart by helping serve dinner to the teens.

While registration is over for this year’s diocesan WorkCamps, we are always looking for adults that can help behind the scenes. If you are interested in participating, please contact the Office of Youth Ministry.

Lastly, please keep all teens and adults in your prayers that their summer work camp experiences may be safe opportunities to grow closer to Christ and to one another.

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