"… (Young people) will be better integrated into (parish) communities that are open, living their faith, eager to radiate Christ, joyful, free, fraternal and committed. These communities can be settings where they feel that it is possible to cultivate precious relationships."# 220- Christ is Alive – Christus Vivit, April 2, 2019
I was very struck by a conversation with the person in charge of facilities for the camp who took us on a tour of the camp. While we were in one of the dorms, one of the guests asked about young people who come and damage facilities. "Let's say, a young person punches his hand through the wall. Is that something you send a bill for to the local council?" His first response was that it is all one big pot after all. When pushed on it, he responded in this way: "When I think about how I feel when something like this happens, in the end, I'm just so grateful for the ministry leader who brought a young person to camp who would put their hand through the wall. That young person gets to come here and experience Christ. Where else can they do that?"
I was very moved by his response. It struck me that the power of the witness during this week was the singular purpose for which the whole team was gathered. Everyone was there for the same reason, so that youth would encounter Christ. That's powerful evangelization. I've experienced Catholic parishes and gatherings where I felt a similar common commitment. These were communities that radiated Christ.
I've also had some negative experiences in parishes. For example, when I was a young youth minister, the janitor put up a large cardboard sign to mark a place where youth had made a mess in the hall. The intent was to embarrass me and be negative about youth. Instead of a singular purpose for witness, we sometimes experienced suspicion of youth and the ministry we provide.
Having experienced the power of a community gathered to witness makes me convinced that we need to take the words of Pope Francis to heart when he tells us that the whole parish community is responsible.
"The community has an important role in the accompaniment of young people; it should feel collectively responsible for accepting, motivating, encouraging and challenging them."# 243- Christ is Alive–Christus Vivit, April 2, 2019
As ministry leaders, teams and advocates for youth, we need to take leadership to help the parish know, value, and witness to the youth in their midst. We need to work to be of one purpose: to radiate Christ.