Challenging Young People to Live the Faith | Jim Graves | Catholic World Report
Youth ministry programs at the diocesan and national levels change the hearts and minds of countless young people.
At World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, Spain, Pope Benedict XVI addressed more than a million young people who had traveled from countries across the globe to participate in the event. Referencing Christ’s command in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation,” the Holy Father said, “You too have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries filled with young people who are looking for something greater and, because their heart tells them that more authentic values do exist, they do not let themselves be seduced by the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God.”
The decades after Vatican II saw many young people leave the active practice of the Faith, often to the distress of their parents. A variety of factors are often cited for this exodus, including the lure of materialism, relativism, and the sexual revolution, poor catechetical programs and formation, and the influence of non-Catholic religions in search of converts.
Today, lay Catholic youth ministers are on the front lines, winning teens back to the Church. Their role is often to provide an initial outreach to teens, getting them excited about the Faith and steering them back to regular involvement in their local parishes. While battling cultural messages that are the antithesis of Catholic teaching can be a daunting challenge, youth ministers are reporting that progress is being made in winning back young people, one soul at a time.
Gary Foote, coordinator of youth ministry for St. Edward Church in Dana Point, California, has worked in youth ministry for 14 years.