ADAMS: Archdiocesan Youth Council - As seen through the eyes of the youth

January 26, 2021

Youth ministry cannot function without the input of those we serve. Since July 1994, high school youth throughout the Archdiocese have been discerned to be members of the Archdiocesan Youth Council, which is sponsored by the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.

The council’s main missions are:

• To assist in assuring active participation of youth in Archdiocesan events.
• To assist in interpreting the needs of youth and advocate for their concerns to the archbishop and Archdiocesan officials.
• To represent the youth of the Archdiocese in various capacities and to encourage the Archdiocese to attend to their needs.
• To further Christian growth through involvement in developing programs for youth. This shall be accomplished through observation, discussion, and action.

The council has grown from a few members in 1994 to well over 100 each year, representing the parishes and Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese. They serve with the help of the OACE staff and incredible volunteer adult advisors (many were former members themselves) who guide the council. During their year, the council, which is commissioned by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, will share a meal with him and have Q&A sessions to discuss some of the concerns affecting youth.

This year’s youth council has been unique under COVID-19.

Although we have only been able to gather virtually, this council has provided us with wonderful information, insight and knowledge, which has helped our office and our youth ministry leaders. I have asked some of them to share their insights about Youth Council.

Why did you want to be a part of Youth Council?
“Honestly, I first learned about youth council whenever some of my close friends told me about it. It sounded like an amazing experience and a great way to get more involved in my church community.”
Zakary Sury, Guardian Angel, Wallis

“What I like about the youth council is that your voice and opinions are heard. We also learn that we are called to be leaders for our parishes. I wanted to be a part of the youth council to learn more about how to lead and pick up ideas on what to do in my church’s youth group.”
Alfredo Rocha, St. Philip of Jesus

“From the moment I heard about this incredible opportunity to make a difference, I knew that I wanted to join the Youth Council. Being on the Archdiocesan Youth Council has changed my life in many ways. It has invigorated the other teens and me with a sense of purpose and community, as well as a unique support system. Most importantly, being on Youth Council gifted me with something I will never forget - a family. Every single person on the council has welcomed me with open arms, regardless of my background, struggles, or flaws, and that has changed my life forever.”
Callie Patterson, Council Community Chair, Our Lady of Lourdes, Hitchcock

What do you feel you have accomplished?
“The people I met, the experiences I had, and the challenges I faced all molded me into a stronger individual, but more importantly, into a stronger Catholic. I’ve come to know the significance of the young Church and how experience with God allows these teens to develop into devoted and knowledgeable members of the Church, who are prepared to share Christ through their lives. Youth Council’s role is irreplaceable as it acts as a medium or guide for so many people to learning and developing in their faith.”
Hayden Diamond, St. Thomas High School

“I think that what we do here and what we stand for matters; the Youth Council prepares us to be the bridge that connects many young Catholics to the Church, and I hope that this will continue to uphold Christ’s values of servant leadership for many years to come.”
Gabriela Clinton, Incarnate Word Academy

Why is Youth Council important for the young Church?
It is so important to have teen leaders because, like JPII says, “The young Church is the current Church.” So being able to help one another allows so many souls to be open to heaven and the Word of the Lord!”
Danika Zubizarreta, Council Chair, St. John Vianney

“The youth have much to bring to Christ’s table. We are not the “future of the Church” as some may say. We are the Church. The Youth Council gives opportunities to the youth to work as apostles. We, as youth, are able to tell the hierarchy of the Church what questions we need answers to. It’s like a parent-child relationship. Just as a child demands and pries for answers from a parent. The youth of the Church are demanding and prying for answers to the hot button questions.”
Cyprus Kananen, St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spring

A parent perspective
So far, two of our daughters have had the privilege of representing our parish on the council. We’ve seen them both grow in their faith in ways that might not have otherwise been possible if not for the council and all of the opportunities it affords. For example, there are times in their lives when they don’t feel comfortable discussing their faith with their peers... be they Catholic or not. The council allows them opportunities to discuss their faith and its impact on their lives with other teens who want to take their faith to an even deeper level.
Melissa Lunkwitz, mother of Avery (2016-2019) & Erika (2019-2021), Sts. Simon & Jude, The Woodlands

From Tim Colbert, director, Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization
The council represents the heart and soul of who we are. They provide a direct window into the lives of adolescents today, which enables the office to respond to the unique characteristics of each generation. Each interaction with these outstanding young men and women fills me with hope. I echo the words of Pope Francis, “The Church needs your momentum, your intuitions, your faith. We need them! And when you arrive where we have not yet reached, have the patience to wait for us.”
Do you feel like you could make a difference? The Archdiocesan Youth Council will have nominations for the 2021-2022 council this spring. If you are interested, please contact your parish youth minister or campus minister. †

Randy Adams is the executive director at Camp Kappe Youth Facility and associate director of the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.