Steadfast through the Storm: Continuing the mission of youth ministry

September 26, 2017

Beyond the obvious impact of Hurricane Harvey, there has been another storm which has beaten and battered the youth ministry in our community of our Archdiocese. As you may or may not be aware, this past June the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization (OACE) lost our long-time Director Brian Johnson.

More recently we lost another member of our ministry team; Jorge Cavazos Jr., who had been a key volunteer in our annual youth conference and our Archdiocesan Youth Council. This spiritual storm has left many feeling lost, confused and deeply concerned about the future.

Many youth ministry leaders and members of the young Church who these two faithful disciples have served with and mentored over the years have begun to ask the question: What direction will youth ministry move in now? Will there still be a strong commitment to the young Church? It is a valid question which stems not from fear; but rather, from a concern to see the local Church continue to move forward.

This question is actually very easy to answer. The mission of youth ministry remains the same, because it was not, and never will be, centered on any person other than Jesus Christ.

In 1997 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops promulgated a document titled “Renewing the Vision: A framework for Catholic Youth Ministry.” Now, 20 years later, the content is just as relevant and inspiring as it was then. The OACE team has always been guided by the goals of youth ministry which are found there.

The mission of youth ministry remains the same, because it was not, and never will be, centered on any person other than Jesus Christ.

The first goal of youth ministry is: “To empower young people to live as Disciples of Christ in our world today.” Young people are searching for a noble adventure and a cause worthy of their commitment. There is no nobler of an endeavor than discipleship; and nothing more worthy of the commitment of one’s whole self.

Through the storms of this summer, the countless people throughout our Archdiocese who minister to, with, and for young people will remain steadfast to this goal.

The second goal of Youth Ministry is: “To draw young people to responsible participation in the life, mission and work of the Catholic faith community.”

Leadership in youth ministry has never been about who can give the best directions or make the quickest decisions; it has always been about helping young people to actively participate in the life and mission of the Church.

Young people are not secondary citizens in the kingdom of God. They carry within themselves an energy and enthusiasm which is needed on all levels of the Church. We will remain steadfast in our commitment to drawing them and their unique gifts into the service of Christ and His Church.

The third goal of youth ministry is: “To foster the total personal and spiritual growth of each young person.”

This goal is intimately linked to the first two. Discipleship is the process of becoming a committed follower of Jesus Christ; this process does not happen over a span of months or years; it takes our entire life.

Youth ministry in our Archdiocese remains committed to planting new seeds of discipleship and nurturing those that have already taken root. The more we foster a young person’s total personal and spiritual growth, the more they will embrace their God-given gifts, and place them at the service of the life and mission of the Church.

Storms will always come in life, but we must be steadfast through them. Countless men and women have stepped up to serve in wake of Hurricane Harvey and meet the needs of their friends, family and neighbors.

In the same way, the Holy Spirit will raise up leaders, both young and old, to continue to promote the goals of youth ministry which are so important to the heart of God, and the future of His Church.

In the face of questions and fears, we have nothing to fear because we can have faith that God is there for us. 

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