Empowering youth ministers to nurture the faith, spiritual growth of the young Church

July 11, 2023

One of the largest diocesan youth conferences in the nation, the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization hosts the Archdiocesan Youth Conference annually, drawing nearly 2,000 young Catholics together, as well as other events and formation programs throughout the year. (Herald file photo)

HOUSTON — The empowerment of youth ministry leaders plays a crucial role in fostering adolescents’ faith and spiritual growth, ultimately guiding the young Church into a full, active and conscious participation in Christ’s mission.

Tim Colbert, director of the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization (OACE) in the Archdiocese, emphasizes the significance of evangelizing and discipling each generation of youth for the present and future of the Church.

“OACE’s mission is to provide formation, leadership and resources in Comprehensive Youth Ministry so our parish leaders have the tools necessary to form our Catholic adolescents into lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ,” said Colbert.

Beatriz Green acknowledges the invaluable support provided to parish leaders by OACE that has fostered a professional and Christ-centered atmosphere for youth ministry. Green is currently the director of religious education and Quinceañera coordinator at St. Cyril of Alexandria Catholic Church and has been actively involved in youth ministry for over 20 years.

“OACE’s frequently offered professional growth programs make it a lot easier to do a good job and serve as a reminder that I am not alone,” said Green. “There are opportunities for me to share with others the struggles I go through, knowing that perhaps other youth ministers are going through the same issues.”

Green said OACE’s youth events have enabled young Catholics to experience a sense of belonging, not only within their own parish communities but also as integral members of the larger Archdiocesan family.

According to Colbert, in 2022, nearly 25,000 youth participated in OACE-sponsored events, and the numbers are expected to surpass pre-pandemic figures. To equip youth ministry leaders to accommodate this increase in demand, OACE is developing an extensive pre-recorded online comprehensive youth ministry leadership formation program that will be conveniently accessible 24/7.

Additionally, OACE is expanding its Spanish language programs to provide leadership, formation and resources to the Spanish-speaking community.

“New programs include a one-day Quinceañera retreat, an adult training retreat on effective retreat methodologies, professional Growth Days, a youth retreat, and a bilingual OACE website,” said Colbert.

As one of the 60-plus ministries supported by the annual Diocesan Services Fund (DSF), Colbert said the generosity of the faithful who contribute to the fund allows OACE to continue its outreach and formation opportunities for youth.

Green also emphasized the importance of DSF support in fostering a stronger faith and preparing young people to face the world as disciples of Christ.

“OACE is a large part of the backbone of those working toward fostering youth who are strong in their faith, ready to face the world,” Green said. “I feel very strongly about supporting OACE through the DSF. The staff cares deeply about the youth of the Archdiocese and sees them not only as the future of the Church but as a valuable part of the Body of Christ in today’s Church.”

Colbert said the Archdiocesan Youth Council, comprised of approximately 100 high school youth from across the Archdiocese who serve for one year, is another example of a DSF-supported initiative. He said the council plays a vital role in guiding OACE to meet the needs of each new generation.

“The Archdiocesan Youth Council provides insights into the adolescent experience today and how the young Church may be evangelized,” said Colbert. “They provide leadership for various Archdiocesan-wide programs, develop themes and prayer experiences, and offer insights into the adolescent experience during regular meetings with OACE leadership and an annual meeting with His Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo.”

Colbert said the council also plans the annual Archdiocesan Youth Conference (AYC) held in the summer, which is OACE’s largest evangelizing event for older adolescents. He said production costs for AYC have significantly increased, which have become more financially burdensome each year.

“Production costs have risen from $37,000 in 2018 to over $100,000 today, which translates to $15 per participant in 2018 to $71 per participant today,” said Colbert. “Because this important event for our youth is becoming more cost prohibitive each year, additional DSF funding would be very instrumental.”

He said additional DSF funding also would assist OACE in developing a more robust outreach program for Catholic Youth of African Descent in the Archdiocese.

“Funds are needed for regional and national speakers for the Catholic Youth of African Descent’s youth day, subsidization for a youth retreat, and again, participation in AYC,” said Colbert. “Online formation opportunities also would be helpful since content development has stalled due to a lack of funding for outside authors and presenters.”

To learn more about OACE, go to www.archgh.org/oace. To donate to the DSF, go to www.archgh.org/DSF. The DSF supports each of these ministries, whether direct service or education, which require this critical funding to remain in operation. Out of each gift given to DSF, 100% of every dollar goes directly to supporting these ministries.