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.
The 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.