HENRITZE: Witness -- A Catholic Mission Camp helps youth serve

February 26, 2019

In Evangelii Nuntiandi, which is a seminal document of the new evangelization, St. Paul VI said: “The first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentic Christian life” (EN, 41).

It is not enough for parishes and youth ministries to provide young people with an opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ. We must also provide them with the formation and tools to live as authentic witnesses to the Gospel.

The Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization does this through a local summer mission camp that demonstrates how our faith is meant to be more than just a feeling. This four-day camp, June 2 to 5, is designed to engage high school teens in meaningful service opportunities, while forming them in the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

The current generation of teens, referred to as either iGen or GenZ, have been shown to be less engaged in service than the previous generations. It is not that they lack a desire for serving, simply the opportunities and motivation to serve. Direct service is the cornerstone of the Witness program.

It is not enough to serve, but our goal is to facilitate opportunities for youth to truly encounter the poor; and in doing so, encounter Jesus Christ in a new, transformative and powerful way.

The experience of Witness is not limited to the service component. Each day youth will also play, pray and gain. They will play though daily camp activities designed to foster a sense of community and fellowship. Youth will also pray through daily Mass and various prayer services. Teens will then gain a deeper understanding of Catholic Social Teaching through vibrant catechesis centered on the person of Jesus Christ.

Unlike other camps and retreats, the purpose of Witness is to send teens home with a faith that is more than a feeling. They will be equipped with the skills to be a missionary disciple to their family, friends, Church and community. In this way, they will learn to evangelize and work for justice and peace in our world.

If you, or a youth you know, are interested in attending Witness this summer, I encourage you to reach out to the youth ministry leader at your parish. Inquire about sending a group from your parish community to participate in this unique mission camp.

To learn more information about Witness: A Catholic Mission Camp, visit our website: www.archgh.org/OACE and click on the high school tab. I hope you can join us by serving those in need in our local Church of Galveston-Houston. †

Brian Henritze is an associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.