SASKATOON — Helping youth encounter Christ, grow as disciples, and reach out to transform the world is the goal of youth ministry in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon — and it is also the job of all the baptized, says Colm Leyne.
The co-ordinator of the diocesan Vocations and Youth Ministry Office in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon spoke about the challenges and opportunities of youth ministry to leaders from across the diocese gathered for an Administration Day Sept. 13.
“Our young people are necessary. They are essential. In many ways they are the life blood of your community,” said Leyne. “They are part of the church today; they are here now. Don’t ignore them. You need to see them, and you need to love them.”
Supported by the Bishop’s Annual Appeal, the diocesan Youth Ministry office “exists to empower, train, support and mentor those serving young people in our community,” Leyne summarized.
The diocese is blessed with a range of grassroots ministries, he noted. “CCO (Catholic Christian Outreach) was founded here, we have great campus ministry at STM (St. Thomas More College), we have Theology On Tap, Pure Witness Ministries, FacetoFace Ministries. We have many wonderful ministries of people stepping up as disciples to serve. We need to work with each other.”
Connecting with those providing youth ministry in parishes and beyond is one of the roles of the Youth Ministry Office, said Leyne. Regular meetings among those providing youth ministry are held to connect, pray, and explore different themes and concerns together. At the most recent gathering the topic was school ministry.
“Part of my ministry is just to love the ministers,” added Leyne, describing efforts to affirm, empower and support youth ministers. “To do this ministry is priceless. The least I can do is to take them out for a cup of coffee and say ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’ ’’
Supporting pastors, parents, and parish councils in their ministry to youth is another role of the diocesan youth ministry office, Leyne said. This support might include training opportunities, resources, brainstorming sessions, help in interviewing or hiring a youth minister, discerning gifts, or facilitating a discussion about the particular needs of a parish.
Leyne added that he advocates for youth ministry, while assuring his listeners that it is happening in every parish. “Where there are young people, there is youth ministry. Where there is encounter, there is youth ministry,” he said. “One kid, 10 kids, 20 kids — it doesn’t matter. How are you loving the ones that are in your life? As a pastor, as a parent, as an aunt or an uncle, as a lector, as an altar server co-ordinator? You all have a role to play, and you can’t abdicate it, you can’t resign, you can’t pass the buck.”
He offered a menu of ideas to make youth ministry easier for those who do not have a paid youth minister in their parish, or who have limited time and resources. Leyne identified a list of upcoming “show-up events” that might simply require paying a registration fee and organizing some parents to help with transportation.
For instance, Youth Alpha programs are happening this fall at St. Anne’s and Holy Family Cathedral in Saskatoon and are available online to break open the basic truths of Christian faith, he suggested.
Pure Witness Ministries holds regular YEP (Youth Evangelization Program) monthly events for youth from Grade 8 - 12, and Challenge Girls Club and Conquest Boys Club are starting up for another year of spiritual growth for those ages eight - 17.
Search retreats are again being offered to youth in the Diocese of Saskatoon, with the next one scheduled for Oct. 21 - 23 at Bishop James Mahoney High School in Saskatoon, with information and registration at www.saskatoonsearch.ca
“Like a live-in or a Cursillo, Search is a ‘come to know that Jesus loves you’ kind of weekend,” Leyne explained. “These young people are going to encounter the Lord in a powerful way. And the beauty of Search is that the young people then become the leaders. They become servers, and they get to share the gift.”
Other easily accessibly ideas for parishes include hosting a eucharistic adoration evening for youth with music, offering a youth Bible study, exploring the new “Do-Cat” catechism resource for youth about Catholic social teachings, or holding a sports night, listed Leyne.
“Meet on a Saturday morning, Bibles and bagels, or take this little reflection, break open the word. There are lots of ideas,” he suggested. “You want to do catechesis? Take them to Chrism Mass and talk about it on the drive home.”
Parishes are also welcome to invite Leyne to come out to provide training or discuss ideas. “I can help you develop a plan,” he said. “We plan for everything in business, but we don’t plan how to help young people encounter the Lord. We just try to wing it. We need to do better than that.”
FacetoFace Ministries is one of the grassroots groups providing youth ministry in the diocese. Jon Courchene of FacetoFace Ministries described the parish retreat to leaders attending Administration Day. “Each session typically has praise and worship, has a keynote talk, sometimes a drama, and then a small group, where youth get together and discuss a way to make it real for them.”
Retreat sessions include the proclamation of the word (exploring who is God and what he has done for us), a session leading into the sacrament of reconciliation, another on what life in Christ looks like, and finally, a closing session on how to live out faith and how to know God and love him very practically, described Courchene. The retreat also includes youth activities, prayer ministry, fellowship and eucharistic adoration, as well as celebration of mass with the community.