"Go and make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:10)
Knowing is half the battle, right? The state of our youth: 6 in 10 are leaving the Church, they are “spiritual but not religious,” they feel faith and science are incompatible, the technology influence (individualization, secularization, can easily find other sources to support their erroneous ideas), and they are drifting from authority structures in general.
Where do we even begin? With Jesus! Remember when God tried to speak to us only using other humans? I don’t either, because it was over 2000 years ago…but I read about it! It didn’t go so well, so Jesus came to personally walk with us Himself. He went out of his way to get to know us, to encourage, to mentor, to show us how to live for God and to one day be with Him. Just as we ourselves have been mentored, discipled, and taught the Faith, we must do the same for others. As Pope Francis said recently, “Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit.” As much as we might be comfortable just speaking at large groups of young people, we know that’s not what changed our lives, so it probably won’t change theirs. We must walk with them, as Jesus did the Apostles.
How does one do this? You look at the youth (or anyone, really), and you love them! It’s not a checklist, but here are some ideas to start: learn their names, ask about (and remember!) their activities and interests, be genuine, pray for them, don’t lecture but listen, sit on the same level, be consistent. Over time, you will find to raise relevant faith questions, and because they know you as not just a teacher, but a witness, they will listen. Find time to expose them to beauty.
I recently experienced a great example of how to reach young people this way with the Broom Tree Retreat. While there were great talks throughout the weekend, the real fruit came from conversations around meals, a game of pool, or the camaraderie formed by making a 10 foot snowman. I had just met most of the students, but by the end of the weekend, I saw great respect and joy in the eyes of these young people that I worked with, simply by doing what I listed above. I know it’s not me, but Jesus working through me, and for that, I am thankful! The 28 students were shown examples of how to love, taught about how to better recognize Jesus in their lives, were shown the beauty of the liturgy and adoration, and are now continuing to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in their parishes. All for the greater glory of God!
Matthew Edens is the youth ministry coordinator for Holy Cross AFC (New Ulm, Searles, Lafayette, and St. George). He moved to New Ulm in August after working with youth for 4 1/2 years at St. Francis in Rochester, MN. He was also very involved in the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Newman Center in Winona for 5 years.
Broom Tree Retreat 2017
From January 27-29, 28 youth from around the Diocese attended the “Broom Tree Retreat” at the Broom Tree Youth and Family Camp in Irene, SD. The retreat was a pilot program for 2017 and is designed for (high school) youth who desire to deepen their relationship with the Lord. This year’s theme was “I have called you friends…” The retreat went superbly well and featured daily Mass and adoration, talks on the spiritual life, games, opportunities for Confession and spiritual direction, small group discussion, and lots of time to pray. Here are some of the youth with Thomas the snowman (he was born on St. Thomas Aquinas' feast day). If you are interested in bringing a group of youth next year, please feel free to contact me with questions.
Regional youth ministry meetings
I look forward to meeting with many of you in February and March! Please keep an eye on your inbox for more details on our regional youth ministry meetings.