5 minutes reading time (974 words)

Radiate Christ – Engage Youth and Young Adults

There is a passage in a novel I was reading where the author describes a person riding on a bus as "radiating despair." I resonated with that image. I have been with people who radiated sadness and despair. I have also been with people who radiate hope and joy.

I have been praying with this image. What does it mean to radiate faith? I remember experiencing a powerful homily in which the priest preached about the raising of Lazarus. He reminded us that there is a tomb for each of us, and each of us can look forward to Jesus telling us to "come out!". I saw the look on an older woman in my pew. She was nodding and her whole face said, "yes, I believe this." She was radiating faith. On Easter Sunday, as the catechumen immersed themselves in the waters of baptism, I felt faith radiating. I pictured faith and joy deep in the hearts of the community gathered. It was rising the way heat rises from a sidewalk on a hot summer day. I sensed that this faith, so new and fresh, was palpable; the neighborhood should be able to feel it! As Catholics throughout the world said "yes" to their baptism, the world would feel it too.

In Christus Vivit, Pope Francis describes a parish that radiates Christ.

…(Young people) will be better integrated into 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.

Pope Francis, Christus Vivit, 220

What does it mean to be a parish that is "eager to radiate Christ"? This describes a community that has a fervency of faith to share. The community is eager to share the treasure of faith, which includes being intentional in sharing that faith with young people in our midst. These communities recognize that young people are making choices in their lives about who to be with, how to spend their time, what to give their life to. These communities long to support young people in their choices and encourage the radical option of becoming missionary disciples of Jesus Christ. Standing with youth in this life choice takes more than having them participate in a particular program or community. It's all about the relationship. Young people will see Christ radiated from communities who intentionally welcome youth, listen to them, include them, walk with them, and invite them to the adventure of discipleship.

This is the heart of the direction provided to parishes in Christus Vivit. Parishes are not directed to implement a particular strategy or to change the approach to a specific youth initiative. Instead, we are guided to change our relationship with the young people in our communities. Rather than seeing them as objects of ministry and participants in programs of formation, parishes are guided to see young people as God's beloved who are seeking truth and life.

Each young person's heart should thus be considered "holy ground", a bearer of seeds of divine life, before which we must "take off our shoes" in order to draw near and enter more deeply into the Mystery.

Pope Francis, Christus Vivit, 67
Seeing the holiness of young people is recognizing that the task of evangelizing youth and forming them as young disciples is God's initiative. God has been completely in love with the young people in our communities from the moment of their conception. God began a conversation with these young people; our job is to pay attention to what God is doing, align ourselves with the Spirit, and walk with youth as they grow in discipleship. We are called to accompany them as they discern their response to God's plan for their life.

There are three movements for transformation and growth. First, we look carefully at parish life as a whole to see how we are welcoming, including, and integrating youth throughout parish life. Second, we empower and equip all those who could accompany youth in faith. Third, we transform all of our ministry efforts with youth to promote relationships of accompaniment. These movements make us ready as a community to witness a living faith to the young in new and energized ways.

These implications of Christus Vivit and many more will be explored at an historic gathering co-sponsored by the National Dialogue on Catholic Pastoral Ministry with Youth and Young Adults, and Franciscan University of Steubenville. Voice and Vision: A National Summit for Ministries with Youth and Young Adults will provide an opportunity for ministry leaders and practitioners with pastoral and/or academic experience in junior high, high school, college campus, pastoral juvenil, and young adult ministries to gather and plan for the transformation of ministry praxis with youth and young adults in the United States.

I encourage you to join in this gathering and be part of the visioning for the transformation of our ministries. I would also like to announce that the Center for Ministry Development will be expanding on these themes in our 2020 Workshop Series – Radiate Christ – Forming Youth for Discipleship. Watch for more information and contact me if you would like to have this workshop scheduled in your area.

For more information about the Voice + Vision Summit, click below:

For more information about the National Dialogue, click below:


The National Dialogue

The purpose of the conversations taking place within the National Dialogue is to more deeply understand the lived experience of youth and young adults so that as a Church, we can transform our ministry practice to more effectively encounter and accompany the young church.
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