Yes, it is noisy. Yes, it is chaotic. And yes, it is a lot of hard work for parish leaders. But there is something almost magical about generations learning faith together. I’ve seen a father with his arm around his 12-year-old daughter exploring a Scripture passage. That gives me hope.
“If only parents would do their job at home and support our ministry better!” Ever since youth ministry and faith formation leaders learned that parents are the primary catechists of their children, we have been trying to get those parents to do a better job. We often responded with more mandatory meetings, more homework, worksheets, family resources sent home online or in handouts, and more expectations for families of children and youth seeking sacraments. This approach has not yielded the results we expected or hoped for.
As I write today, it is pouring rain and once again my neighborhood is under a flash flood watch. While this might be normal for some parts of the world, I live in a place that proudly boasts 300 days of sunshine per year. The Colorado Mountains are known for clean air, blue skies and plenty of sunshine and those of us who live here love to get outside and hike, bike, and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.
Join us and thousands of people from around the world starting April 12, 2015 for a five-week free online learning experience on helping young people encounter Christ and the Church! Each week will have a Master Teacher(s) focusing the topic around a chapter from the apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium or The Joy of the Gospel. Surrounding that topic will be other experts and practitioners helping you put that theme into context in a variety of NetSourcing Learning Communities, such as clergy, parents, faith formation, and ministry with high school youth, middle school youth, or young adults.
Suubi is the word for hope in Uganda. It is a word that can inspire, challenge or make us run in fear. I am choosing the first two and invite you to join me on little journey. I first met Moses in a Facebook Youth Ministry group. He was so excited about what God was doing in his country and felt called to do something for the youth and families in his community. He was so eager to learn about social justice - a new concept to him. We had so many conversations about service, justice, what the Catholic church has to say about human dignity, poverty, hunger and needs. I learned that his community was hit very hard by AIDS and HIV, leaving so many children sick and orphaned. The community was finding it very difficult to care for everyone....and many go without basic needs today. Moses challenged his youth group to build a home for a homeless family - and I was amazed at how this poor community and even poorer youth found a way to build a tiny brick home for this family. It was beautiful and of course empowering. The youth wanted something more to do...so Moses helped them feed the hungry in their community. They gave up their own breakfast one day to share it with the school children in need. I was overwhelmed by this beautiful act. There is no excess from which to give in this community - people are giving from their own food, own shelter, own clothing. It shook me to my core. I thought of all our YNIA teams - and their own fundraising efforts to come on a YNIA week. You all earn the money to give up a week to serve in the name of Jesus. It is radical. It is a paradox. It is our faith. We will soon be sharing with you a little project Moses and our YNIA team have come up with to bring breakfast to the children in Masaka, Uganda. We hope to have each YNIA team host a breakfast to raise money to help our friends grow maize. This maize will be breakfast for the children. You and I know we learn better, feel better and do better if we have full tummies.
I have always believed in Catholic Relief Services, its mission, and its work. So when CRS invited the Center for Ministry Development to partner in developing FoodFast for 2015, we said YES without hesitation. FoodFast is CRS' 24-hour interactive experience for youth which engages them in exploring issues of hunger while fasting and raising money to feed those who go to bed hungry every night.
I am excited to announce an addition to our ministry staff. Angel Barrera will join the Center for Ministry Development as a Project Coordinator for Youth Ministry Services on January 5, 2015. Angel has over 10 years of experience in ministry with youth and families in parish, campus ministry and diocesan settings. He holds a Masters of Arts degree in Religious Studies from University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. He has been serving as the Director of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Brownsville.
My wife and I were visiting our daughter's at their college football game this month. It was a great 59 minutes of football for the home team, until a Hail Mary pass in the last ten seconds gave victory to the other side. This was a surprising and disappointing experience, but it made me think about why we call it a "Hail Mary" pass.
One of the most incredible things about high school youth is their depth of compassion, willingness to serve and sense of adventure. With those three ingredients - they really can change the world. So what needs changing? When there is a need not met - that's when change is needed. When there are children or families in our communities who are hungry - elderly who are lonely or neglected, when mental illness is not addressed and homelessness becomes a way of life and not just a temporary thing - change is needed! Service and mission trips help us to keep our hearts pliable and our eyes searching for those in our midst who need the love of Christ. A high school mission trip with YNIA makes changing the world an everyday event and it empowers young people to stand up, choose to be the salt and the light that changes things - that brings hope, healing and joy.