CYM Blog

Don’t Forget Your Joy

This past July, I had the opportunity to attend the USCCB Convocation: The Joy of the Gospel in America. The basis for the convocation was Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel. A month or so prior, a companion piece written by the USCCB called Living as Missionary Disciples was released, which I highly recommend. It’s a short read and free online here. While I walked away from the Convocation with a renewed sense of hope for the Church in the United States, here are some of my reflections that pertain to youth ministry:

There was great affirmation about what many of us are already doing in youth ministry: trying to help young people encounter the person of Jesus Christ, make a decision to live for Him, and then live as “missionary disciples” within the beautiful gift of the Church. Going to where young people are and walking alongside them is something we’ve been doing for a long time. As one speaker reminded us (it was probably Randy Raus), to evangelize is free. The only real cost is our time and our energy to walk with youth and extend the invitation. For those doing relational ministry, the emphasis on evangelization and discipleship during the Convocation should be an encouraging reminder.

If we are called to help form young people to be missionary disciples, we must also fulfill our role as missionary disciples. I was reminded, though, how often we can just stay focused on all the trouble in the church, the parish politics, issues with parents, the outdated website, and the lack of resources. While this doesn’t mean we should ignore problems or stop striving for excellent parish life, I think we can easily get trapped with an inward-only looking view. (Cardinal Dolan alluded to this idea in his homily for the opening Mass.) As church workers and volunteers, we can too often forget the joy of knowing Jesus Christ. We then miss sharing the good news (read: joyful news) of Jesus Christ. We will never be able to “go into all the world” if we are stuck in the muck inside the walls.

As the laity, we are called to go out to the world, which also means that as we disciple our young people, we must help equip them to live their faith outside the parish walls, too. This can be very hard if we haven’t equipped them to speak about the beauty of what we believe—without sounding preachy. In my school, I have seen teens have an opportunity to share a Catholic worldview, but too often, they either don’t say anything, do it very weakly, or at worst, present misinformation.

This idea of teaching young people some philosophy was ardently spoken to by Sister Anna Laura, O. P. She shared that she’s seen an incredible transformation in her Catholic school by teaching teens some basic philosophy. In his keynote, Bishop Barron also affirmed this idea and suggested that we be able to know how to talk about God’s existence—knowing at least one argument.

I am challenged to think how we can help teens navigate everyday conversations knowledgeably and wisely. With a long history of philosophers and theologians, we should be able to give our teens the tools to think and apply the faith…and then speak about it with love.

About the Author

Angela Hamrick

I only first went to youth group in high school because my mother made me. Little did I know that the Lord's plan for my life would be directly related to that one Wednesday evening. I don't eat bananas, seafood, or the white sauce that comes with chips and salsa.

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