Youth ministry leaders and priests of the Oakland diocese hoist Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, into the air at the Arizona conference.
"Jesus, Jesus at the sound of your name, every knee will bow down and we will shout your praise."
I now sing these words at the top of my lungs while traveling down Highway 4 each morning. My obvious head and hand movements must give my fellow commuters some morning entertainment. When you find yourself so in love with the savior of the world, so convinced that you are in the place He designed you to be, you can't help but let your joy explode.
My inspiration was sparked by my transforming experience at the Catholic Youth Ministry Convention in Scottsdale, Arizona, on June 8-11. The convention, which was attended by more than 800 clergy and youth ministry leaders, was organized by the staff of Life Teen, a Eucharistic centered movement (www.lifeteen.com) whose mission is to lead teens closer to Christ.
The four-day conference featured nationally acclaimed speakers, Christian musicians and countless workshops on various topics to support highly effective youth ministry. Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, attended and presided at one of the masses, inspiring the participants with one of his amazing homilies.
Youth ministry leaders from Holy Rosary, Good Shepherd, Immaculate Heart, St. Joseph, St. Raymond, Holy Spirit, St. Joan of Arc, St. Mary, St. Philip Neri-St. Albert the Great and St. Agnes attended the conference along with Revs. Carl Arcosa, Jim Sullivan, George Alengadan, Lawrence D'Anjou, Brandon Macadaeg and Bob Mendonça.
"It was an eye opener for me how we should do more for our young people and how to win many of them to love the church" said Father Arcosa from Good Shepherd.
Father Lawrence D'Anjou of St. Raymond's added, "Looking out during Mass at the hundreds of young and not-so-young youth ministers who were praying, praising God and preparing themselves to better serve our Catholic youth was an amazing and hope-filled thing."
Joseph Nufable, the new youth minister from Holy Spirit in Fremont said, "The whole experience was by far one of the most profound encounters with Christ I've had my entire life.
I walked away with many new ideas and perspectives, as well as a renewed appreciation for the amount of support the Life Teen staff extends to the ministers and parishes committed to Knowing Christ better and Making Him Better Known.
"The Life Teen Convention was an awesome opportunity for inspiration, spiritual renewal and networking," said Patti Collyer, coordinator of Youth Ministry for the diocese.
Erinn Bagnaschi from Immaculate Heart said, "If these are the people that Christ has trusted his people to, the Church is in good hands. I have been blessed to be in the presence of great and holy men and women of God who lead teens and each other to holiness in Christ."
(Karri Reiser is coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at Holy Rosary Parish, Antioch.)
|From left: Revs. Brandon Macadaeg, Carl Arcosa, George Alengadan, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, Revs. Lawrence D'Anjou and Robert Mendonça.|
learn and grow
|Youth ministry convention|
800 youth ministers and leaders
60 breakout sessions
Some topics: how to balance a budge, lead a youth group meeting. relational ministry and dynamic environments, a course on gay marriage and same-sex attraction under the heading, "Same Love, Same Church."
When: June 8-11
Where: Scottsdale, Arizona
Sponsor: Life Teen Inc.
God constantly offers us opportunities to learn and grow. Often these opportunities come to us through challenges, difficulties and even suffering. Other times they come through an uplifting and joy-filled experience.
Last week I, along with our Youth Minister Shannon Collyer and a group of about 35 priests and youth ministry leaders from the Diocese of Oakland had an opportunity to learn and grow in the latter sense while attending the Life Teen Youth Ministry Convention in Phoenix.
Life Teen was established in 1985 at St. Timothy's Parish in Mesa, Arizona, to "lead teens closer to Christ." It has grown to become one of the largest Catholic teen ministry organizations in the country.
Through Life Teen, parishes can obtain programs and materials, workshops and ongoing training to "lead teens closer to Christ." I had known about Life Teen for some time but never had the chance to experience it first-hand. Last week was my opportunity. I'm glad I took it.
Several things impressed me about the convention. First, it was well attended. Actually it was the most well attended Life Teen convention ever offered. Youth ministers, priests and religious numbered about 800 from throughout the United States and Canada.
Second, it was deeply Catholic; meaning that from the daily celebration of Mass, to the outstanding presenters, to the instruction materials to the uplifting praise and worship moments — everything was completely in line with the faith that Christ has handed on to his Catholic Church. It was inspiring to see so many enthusiastic and passionate young people striving to pass on the gift of our Catholic faith to their peers.
They, probably better than most of us, know the destructive consequences of a life lived without God, without Christ, without hope, because that is increasingly what the world offers to the youth of today. They know the "better part," and they don't want to see it denied to their peers (Luke 10:42).
Thirdly, what impressed me was the forward-focus of the Life Teen organization. Life Teen utilizes social media, video, multimedia, printed material, music, prayer and the sacraments to "bombard" youth with a healthy barrage of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Parishes that utilize Life Teen as part of a comprehensive youth ministry program are seeing young people enthusiastically live out their faith through the Catholic Church. Is there anything better than that?
We were especially blessed to have Oakland Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, interrupt his busy schedule to join us at the convention in Phoenix. He celebrated Mass and gave all of us something to ponder in his homily. "Young people need an encounter with God's mercy and God's mystery," he told us. "Be sure and provide them opportunities to show God's mercy through intentional acts of charity for others. Be sure and provide them opportunities to experience the mystery of God in their worship and in their experience of prayer." We will take these learnings and others gained at the convention in Phoenix to heart as we look to grow youth ministry here at St. Raymond Parish. Please keep this effort in your prayers. Thank you!
(Father Lawrence D'Anjou is parochial administrator at St. Raymond Penafort Parish in Dublin.)
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