Thursday, 14 August 2014.
The Office of Youth Ministry held its annual kick-off for the Youth Ministry Year at St. Ambrose in Annandale, VA from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm, followed by an information meeting in preparation for World Youth Day 2016. Since it was held on a Thursday, the Office of Youth Ministry decorated in 80s pop culture themes evoking the Facebook tradition of #TBT or Throwback Thursday. But on a deeper level, these echoing of old themes brought forth a new focus on an old saying "Go forth and make disciples" (Matthew 28) which is the official theme for the year.
Some 80 Coordinators of Youth Ministry, volunteers and other parish staff were in attendance for the kick-off representing the various Deaneries throughout the Arlington. They were led in song and reflection by Christian music artist, Cooper, from Texas, who had most recently been part of WorkCamp this past June. Kevin Bohli, Director of OYM and his staff led a well organized meeting that covered essentials and basics like child safety protocols and the calendar of diocesan events and deeper theological issues related to the mission of Evangelization and Discipleship.
Kevin repeated his 5 Challenges from the previous year paying particular attention to the first: Keep the main thing, the main thing. This was short hand for making sure that Christ was at the center of all things, whether that was making sure that there was a scriptural or catechetical focus to each group gathering or something as simple and important as making sure ministers consciously made an effort to pray daily. This also was reiterated and reformulated by various other members of the staff and speakers who wanted to make clear to both new and seasoned church workers that Youth Ministry is not a job that you do alone. Nor should you accept or fall into the trap that the parish expects you to produce Youth Ministry. It is for this reason why the Office of Youth Ministry intentionally does not use the word Youth Minister or the word Youth Group. The individual doesn't do Youth Ministry. He or she is a Coordinator of Youth Ministry. Likewise, CYMs do not have a Youth Group, the coordinate "Youth Groupings" (i.e. various and diverse activities that are teachable moments, moments of direct service, or opportunities for ongoing faith formation not just for the youth but for those journeying along with them).
Kevin also upped his initial goal of reaching out to at least 2% of youth in each parish to reaching out to at least 3%. For the various parishes that range was as low as 12 and as high as 200+. Kevin was quick to say that it felt odd to be putting that forth as a goal to just reach 3%. But it was a good benchmark to know how many relationships should be developed on an ongoing weekly basis.
Father Thomas Ferguson, the parochial vicar for faith formation in the diocese, led mass at midday. Lunch followed with break out sessions to allow time for the various deaneries to schedule times to meet throughout the year. After the Kick-Off, Christine Najarian, Assistant Director at OYM, led an information meeting for World Youth Day to be held in Krakow Poland in 2016. Stakeholder agreements and the first round of deposits are due by the end of October with the remaining 18 months or so to complete the process. Prices range about $3500 for a week in Krakow with the option for an extended package to include an additional week prior to World Youth Day to see a few other European cities for an additional $1000.
Although there are many Diocesan events held throughout the year, some worth identifying this year are:
- Deeper Waters: A Vision for Reaching Catholic Teens, SEP 2 at OLGC in Vienna with Frank Mercadante
- Advent Day of Reflection to be held at Christ the Redeemer November 20
- The National Conference for Catholic Youth Ministers (NCCYM) in San Antonio TX DEC 4-6
- Deeper Waters: Understanding Adolescent Conversion to beld at Christ the Redeemer March 3
- Coordinators of Youth Ministry Social: Cruise on the Potomac held in Old Town Alexandria on May 9
- Deeper Waters: A Profile of Discipleship in Youth Ministry to be held at George Mason University Chapel June 2
The full calendar of events is available on the Arlington Diocese Youth and Young Adults website.