COLBERT: Counting blessings of 2020

January 12, 2021

I command you: be strong and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD, your God, is with you wherever you go.
(Joshua 1:9)
For I know well the plans I have in mind for you — oracle of the LORD — plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.
(Jeremiah 29:11)

These passages from the Hebrew Scriptures provide a window into 2020 here at the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization (OACE). No doubt they reflect the experience of all of us in 2020. Perhaps an equally appropriate analogy would be the oft used phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Allow me to share with you how the Lord has given us a future of hope and guided us in making some marvelous lemonade!

As with so many things these days, the key to success has been re-envisioning all that we do in a virtual context and gaining the knowledge and skills to implement a virtual ministry. What a blessing this has been!

Blessing #1

The opportunity to be better connected to the youth and youth ministry leaders we serve. As everything began to shut down, including our parishes, we all wondered, “what do we do now?”

That question led to a weekly virtual gathering of youth ministry leaders for prayer, support and sharing of ideas on how to minister to young people and their families in a virtual world. Prior to the pandemic, we met only four times a year. Now we have settled into a monthly gathering of support, formation and prayer.

The same was true of the Archdiocesan Youth Council. As we reached out to support them and to understand what the adolescent experience of the pandemic was, we discovered that the youth valued the experience of meeting more frequently.

We have implemented a monthly virtual gathering of the youth council, which allows us all to build a stronger bond as well as an opportunity for them to have a stronger voice in the Church.

Blessing #2

Amazing people going above and beyond for the young Church of Galveston-Houston. As it became clear that our 64th annual Archdiocesan Youth Conference (AYC), which draws upwards of 2,500 young people annually, would have to be canceled, we fretted about the impact of the loss of this inspirational gathering would mean for our youth.

As we discussed the quandary with our youth ministry leaders, national speakers and the AYC Band, it became clear that we must attempt a virtual conference. The commitment of the band and our speakers in re-envisioning this experience for the young Church of Galveston-Houston in the midst of the pandemic was truly inspiring.

The commitment of our parish leadership to continue to serve their young people in a new way was inspiring as well. We succeeded in gathering more than 700 young people to celebrate their common bond in Christ.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Daniel Cardinal DiNardo for providing the financial support needed to offer this conference free of charge as a sign of his support during a dark time for our youth.

Blessing #3

Technology that challenged our comfort zone. In a world where we could no longer meet in person, like many aspects of our society, we were forced to learn new ways to deliver the resources, training and mentoring that our office provides.

GoToMeeting and Zoom became the delivery systems for all that we do. Breakout rooms, polls and whiteboards quickly became the new norm. Although we certainly look forward to the day when we can be in person once again, the pandemic has forced us to discover additional effective ways to serve our parishes that will last well past the pandemic.

Has this year presented bountiful challenges? Absolutely!

But in this season of hope, let each of us take a moment to acknowledge the many blessings of this year as well.

Timothy E. Colbert is the director of the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization. (Photo by Chris Montgomery)