ADAMS: Teens living their faith in the world after COVID

January 10, 2023

The New Year always starts out with hope and new goals for the year: lose weight/eat healthy, save money, make time for family and hobbies, etc. And yet, by now, I have already broken or postponed many of those resolutions, but one resolution I continue to maintain each year is to make sure I make time for God.

Whether it’s in individual prayer, family/community prayer, Sacrament or reading Scripture, my faith commitment is strong, although it’s always in need of improvement. As a parent, I believe it’s extremely important that we help our children also grow in their faith beyond family time or Sacramental commitments at the parish. Our young people need to be engaged in living out their faith in the broader community with other teens. I know that’s easier said than done, especially in this post-pandemic world.

Today’s teens, especially younger adolescents (12 to 14), have lived through the pandemic with many of their social skills underdeveloped.

Out of necessity, they needed to rely primarily on online social platforms, educational platforms, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to interact with friends, family and even school. In fact, Gen Y makes way for a new generation known as Alpha (those born after 2010).

These youth are now younger adolescents. Due to the unanticipated immersion into technology, they are the most advanced tech-savvy/social media/AI-using generation in existence. As a result, they lack in-person socialization skills, which also makes them reluctant to participate in social settings outside of technology.

It is our goal to help young people experience the importance of community as a Church so that they can grow to be disciples of Christ and apply their faith in their daily lives and social settings.

The Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization (OACE) is committed to helping parents, pastors, and youth leaders achieve this goal by offering programs where youth interact within the community and the larger church community.

The largest of these programs is the annual Archdiocesan Junior High Youth Rally. The rally is an annual day for younger adolescents (grades sixth to eighth) to gather in community to pray, share, learn and celebrate their Catholic faith with the larger Archdiocesan family. This is a high-energy one-day event that provides younger adolescents from throughout the archdiocese exposure to top keynote presenters, workshops, hands-on activities and Liturgy, which builds their own sense of Catholic community, evangelization and deeper relationship with Christ. The day also features the Grand Midway, which includes games, crafts and service opportunities. Each year a new theme is selected that focuses on issues that affect junior high youth.

The 2023 Archdiocesan Junior High Rally is set for Feb. 18 from 10:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. at Sts. Simon & Jude Catholic Church, The Woodlands.
This year’s theme is Christ: Yesterday, Today and Forever, based on Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Today’s youth are bombarded with social media, giving it an outsized influence over what they believe should be today’s reality, and often God’s plan is left out. Despite science, technology and the geo/social/cultural landscape, Christ does not change His plan or His love for us. The rally will help our youth discern how we can use His love to create our “kingdomverse” instead of the metaverse. We will explore examples of the saints through the ages, along with Scripture and the Sacraments, that help shape our “kingdomverse.”

We will break open our theme through engaging talks, service experiences, interactive workshops, challenging community building, powerful prayer experiences and the celebration of the Mass.

This year we are very excited to have Alex Gotay as our main speaker. Alex is a dynamic speaker who uses his unique perspective and combines it with his passion, humor, creativity, and stories to communicate the good news in a way that connects with teens, young adults, and adults! He has been a speaker at several diocesan youth conferences, spoken at the National Catholic Youth Conference and Life Teen Conference, he has made a guest appearance on EWTN, and is the author of the book Dear Mama.

Alex continues to travel across the nation to speak at parishes, schools, retreats and youth events and is the director of youth ministry at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Houston.

OACE also offers additional programs to help younger adolescents grow personally and as young leaders. These include:

The Quest: A one-day leadership program designed for youth in grades sixth to eighth. The program introduces youth to the Servant Leadership model, which provides them with the building blocks needed for peer ministry. Through prayer, skits, community-building games, activities, and workshops, youth will discover their gifts and learn how to plan and implement junior high activities and programs for their parish.

It will be held Mar. 25 at St. Dominic Archdiocesan Center, located at 2403 Holcombe in Houston.

Peacemakers: A one-day workshop for youth in grades sixth to eighth to explore issues that impact junior high youth and then formulate a Catholic response to all these issues as children of God. It will be held on Jun. 24 at St. Dominic Archdiocesan Center, located at 2403 Holcombe in Houston.

For more information about programs, contact your parish youth leaders or Randy Adams at OACE,

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

(Photo by Michelle Eisterhold / For the Herald)