June 18, 2010

Catholic Education Outreach / Kay Scoville

Fostering vocations in youth ministry

As we come to the close of the Year for Priests, what are we doing to assist young people to discern their vocational call?

As someone who took a long journey from nursing student to director of youth ministry, I often wonder if my journey would have been different had I been influenced by a parish youth ministry program.

Reflecting on my formation has created a passion in me to shape our young people so that we are preparing them for their vocations.

Even though youth ministry is present within many of our parishes today, we continue to face obstacles in the many distractions and options that compete for our youths’ time and attention.

According to St. Peter Julian Eymard, “Man has time for everything except for visits to his Lord and God, who is waiting and longing for him in his tabernacle. The streets and houses of amusements are filled with people. The house of God is deserted.”

We are challenged in secularized society. Yet, there are many signs of hope as demonstrated at the 2008 World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. This global celebration with young people gathered for catechesis, prayer and the Eucharist was a time of incredible energy, inspiration and hope.

One memorable moment occurred when Pope Benedict XVI presided at Benediction and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Youths were on their knees, and there was a sacred silence from a quarter of a million young people lifting their hearts to God.

A year later, the realization of the impact of this gathering was evident in the following headline: “Australia’s Vocations Awareness Week Sees World Youth Day After-Effects.”

The article reported that “the wake of World Youth Day has brought an increase in interest in religious vocations as demonstrated in the response to Catholic Australia’s National Vocations Awareness Week.”

The report noted that the event had sparked an interest in young people inquiring about all vocations, including religious vocations.

Father Francis Kohn, head of the Pontifical Council for the Laity’s Youth Section, affirmed that World Youth Day is a great celebration of faith and can have a huge impact on a young person.

For some young people, it may be an opportunity for conversion of heart, serve as a launching pad for evangelization and provide an opportunity to share this new energy of faith. Upon returning home, their passion motivates some of these young people into greater participation in their parish lives, while for others the enthusiasm dwindles.

How can we keep the fire alive?

In youth ministry, we invite youths to find their relationship with Christ and to listen for the call of their vocation. We present our young people with the truth by integrating catechesis and Catholic traditions into all our activities. We encourage them to be engaged in the life of their parish and to serve their community.

Once our youth have a relationship with Christ, hear his message in the word and receive him in the sacraments, we challenge them to follow their baptismal call, discern their vocation and embrace the spirit of servant leadership. We invite them to be open to God’s summons, and we provide witnesses for them to discern where he might be calling them.

Indeed, an occasion for youth to be with the larger Church can help foster religious vocations, and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis will have an opportunity to impact more than 20,000 young Catholics when we host the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis on Nov. 17-19, 2011!

Let us embrace this opportunity to ignite the fires of conversion in our youth.

(Kay Scoville is the director of youth ministry for the archdiocese in the Office of Catholic Education.)

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