ESTACIO: Pray first. Pray constantly.

February 12, 2019

The Instrumentum Laboris (the preparatory document) for the XV Ordinary Assembly of Synod of Bishop on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment starts off by stating the importance of young people: “Taking care of young people is not an optional task for the Church, but an integral part of her vocation and mission in history.” The Synod ended on the October 28, and now we await an Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Francis.

All of this occurs on the macro level. As global as the modern Church is today, many organizations are beginning to ask how they can begin the work of accompanying young people at ground zero. In the months to come, strategies and goals will be created regarding how dioceses should evangelize and catechize young people.

Yet, before we proceed, there is something else we must do. We need to pray, and continue to ask the Holy Spirit to guide us. Formation requirements for a parish catechetical leader of youth within the Archdiocese includes attending at least one retreat a year and seeking spiritual direction. Serving youth is more than fun and games. It is more than just paperwork and answering phone calls.

A parish catechetical leader of youth responds to his or her baptismal call by accepting the grace of leadership by serving young people and supporting their parents, the primary catechists of their children, as companions on the journey to faith. To be fruitful in this mission, a parish catechetical leader of youth must be a person of prayer.

This is precisely why our office hosts an annual retreat called Sanctus Renovo, meaning a holy renewal, at the beginning of the calendar year for all youth ministry leaders (full-time, part-time, or volunteer). All adults who serve young people in grades sixth to twelfth are invited and welcomed to an overnight retreat to pray, build community, partake in the Sacraments, break bread, and as a result, grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.

On January 8 to 9, youth ministry leaders from across our local Church came together at Camp Kappe Youth Facility in Plantersville. Father Khoi Le, the parochial vicar at St. Ignatius of Loyola, was the chaplain. He celebrated Mass every day and heard confessions throughout the retreat.

As part of our offices endeavor to create a culture of vocations we intentionally invite presenters from various vocations to facilitate the retreat. Last year our retreat facilitator was a priest. This year, we invited Tommy and Katie McGrady to share about the vocation of marriage. The former is a youth minister, and the latter is a full-time speaker and author.

The theme for our year is “Surrender to God,” taken from Luke 1:38: “Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’” Before we break this open with our young people at the Archdiocesan Youth Conference at the end of July, we thought it was best to ensure the youth ministry leaders of Galveston-Houston have, like Mother Mary, surrendered to God first.

This surrendering must begin with prayer. “Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ” (CCC 2465). Prayer is more than mere words and gestures, but it is about a dialogue with Him. Prayer is about listening to the great things God has in store for our lives.

Prayer is vital to our faith because it is about deepening our relationship with Jesus Christ.

In the liturgical calendar, it is Ordinary Time, but this is not meant to be just “ordinary.” The color for this liturgical season is green, because it is meant to be a time to grow by focusing on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Let us use this time in the liturgical calendar, and the beginning half of 2019, to be better at prayer.

I have included a few helpful tips to assist you in this endeavor:

1. Commit to a time and duration to pray. Fifteen to 20 minutes of daily prayer focused around the Gospel for Sunday Mass is a good start. Set the alarm on your phone to remind you of this sacred time between you and God.

2. Find a quiet and peaceful place to pray. If you live near a church, try starting there. If you choose to pray at home, make an altar of religious images and statues.

3. Persevere during times of difficulty. During moments of dryness, continue to pray, trust in the Lord, and have faith that He will see you through it.

This year, let us surrender to God, and ensure our homes, parishes and communities are doing the same.

Come, Holy Spirit, come!

Dunn Estacio is an associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.