COLBERT: Infusing the message of Sacramentum Caritatis to youth

January 14, 2020

In his 2007 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that “the Christian faithful need a fuller understanding of the relationship between the Eucharist and their daily lives. Eucharistic spirituality is not just participation in Mass and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. It embraces the whole of life.”

As we begin a new decade of ministering to young people and their families, I believe that this insight from the Bishops Synod on the Eucharist continues to ring true. Scott Appleby, a church historian at the University of Notre Dame, puts it another way, “older Catholics must be restored to, and younger Catholics introduced to, a sense of Catholicism as a comprehensive way of life.”

Over the past year and a half, the staff of the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization, in concert with our dedicated parish youth ministry leaders, has explored how we might meet these challenges in this new decade. This process has led us to re-envision much of our work. Allow me to share some of those highlights with you.

We are incredibly proud of a new initiative, made possible by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo’s support through the Shepherd’s Cup, a new Certificate Program in Spanish designed to support and resource the large Spanish speaking community in our Archdiocese. Under the capable leadership of Norma Torok, this initiative has not only provided a valuable resource for our parishes but has also been a catalyst for engaging with the numerous Hispanic movements in the Archdiocese.

Norma and her team have been able to infuse the message of Sacramentum Caritatis throughout their work. Our formation in English is currently being examined and updated to reflect the new generation of young people, the message of Sacramentum Caritatis and the many insights of Pope Francis in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit.

Key to this revision is Pope Francis’s strong emphasis on accompaniment. In other words, walking alongside young people, as Jesus did on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). Although formal catechesis is critical, journeying with young people is equally as essential. It is in this accompaniment that they can experience through their adult leaders what it means to live a Eucharistic spirituality truly.

A key initiative that we are undertaking to respond to Sacramentum Caritatis, in collaboration with the staff of the Office of Worship, under the leadership of Sandy Higgins, is the development of training, resources and guidelines that will provide youth ministry leaders with the knowledge and tools they will need to assist young people in developing a well-grounded Eucharistic spirituality. Finally, we know that all the research on young people who become lifelong disciples makes clear that the number one impact on young peoples’ faith is their parents. With that in mind, we will be collaborating with other offices in the chancery to address the faith development of families.

In the midst of this work, we keep in mind that Christ is already alive in the young Church. When we minister to and with young people, we do so acknowledging that “Each young person’s heart should thus be considered ‘holy ground,’ a bearer of seeds of divine life, before which we must ‘take off our shoes’ in order to draw near and enter more deeply into the Mystery.” Pope Francis, Christus Vivit 67

We are entering 2020 with a clear vision of how we will continue our mission of “Providing leadership, formation and resources in Comprehensive Youth Ministry for parishes to effectively form adolescents into lifelong disciples in the Catholic tradition.”

We bear witness to all we encounter in our ministry that “Christ is Alive!”

Tim Colbert is the director of the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.