A conversation with Bob Walters, diocesan director of Youth & Young Adult Ministry

youthministrypicQ How does your office benefit from HOPE Appeal funds? How are the funds utilized?

A We offer multiple events that provide an experience to encounter Christ in a deep and personal manner. These are opportunities that can instill faith and act as a catalyst for conversion.

Some of these events are focused directly for youth, like the recent March for Life pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. and our upcoming Youth Conference & Rally – “Race for the Cross.” If we had to charge the full cost of these events, no one would be able to attend. HOPE Appeal funding makes them affordable. While all these events directly serve the youth themselves it is equally important to train, support and resource the youth ministers in our parishes. At the diocesan level we provide large group encounters of conversion; it is at the parish level, however, that the following step of building and nurturing faith must occur. This is what is commonly called discipleship. HOPE Appeal allows us to provide these training services to the growing number of youth minsters across our diocese.

 

Young adult ministry is a new initiative that was instituted within the last four years. It focuses on young adults in their 20s and 30s.  For those seeking fellowship and faith we offer a monthly Mass on First Friday evening in the Cathedral. After Mass we gather at a local restaurant in Armory Square. “Theology on Tap” is another one of our ministries that provides a speaker on an engaging topic of faith on the third Thursday of each month. This is currently being hosted in PJ’s Pub & Grill.  Last month’s topic was about our soon to be Saint Marianne Cope. The presenters were Sister Grace Anne from the Sisters of St. Francis in our diocese and Kate Mahoney, a young adult herself, whose healing was the first approved miracle for Bl. Mother Marianne’s cause for canonization. In addition to these monthly events, we offer retreats, socials and pilgrimages. The HOPE Appeal provides the much-needed funding for these events to take place.

Q We often hear that the youth and young people are the future of the church.  Can you describe some of the characteristics of the young people you have gotten to know in the diocese?

A Not only are they the future of our church, they are integral members of it today. On each of our pilgrimages we ask the youth to share how they have personally experienced Christ during the course of the trip and how they plan to bring this back to their families, parishes and peers. To hear the joy and hope in their hearts is something I wish all parishioners could hear. In a time when several of us are witnessing declining Mass attendance and all that brings with it, these testimonies are not just encouraging, they are life changing. You see just how strong and vibrant our Church really is, how well the youth can articulate our beliefs, and the conviction in their hearts for service and justice.

Q What are some of the goals for the future of your office?

A The goal of my office is to foster dynamic youth ministry and young adult programs in every parish of our diocese. In order to do this, catechesis in the faith and training on what and how to build a great parish youth ministry are critical. The programs mentioned previously are essential for a diocese like ours where youth ministers are mostly volunteer and part-time. They simply don’t have the time and resources to offer the ongoing discipleship at the parish level and provide the needed large-group experiences that initiate conversions. By our offering of this programing, parishes are freed up to do the discipleship in the parish itself.  We currently have a 6-week start-up process for parishes to begin and/or revitalize their parish youth ministry. Not only has this initiative been successful in our diocese but in other dioceses similar to our own.

Q How might parents encourage their youngsters to participate in the youth ministry activities offered at their parishes?

A The best way for parents to get their children involved in the Church is to be involved themselves. Most parishes have programs that are run by parent-led volunteers and they always need help. To experience, share, and grow in the faith alongside your own child is irreplaceable.  The church teaches that parents are the primary educators of faith. Current national studies attest to this fact when they state that the level of faith a child can expect to attain is directly correlated to the level of faith of the parents. Youth need parents that are engaged in the faith life of their parish, and who share this with them. Good youth ministry enlists the support of parents in the entire process. Call your youth ministers and ask where they need help.

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