July 29, 2011

YOUCAT is a hit with archdiocesan youths and youth ministers

As the dean of the Terre Haute Deanery, Father Rick Ginther, left, listens during a July 14 press conference as Ann Ryan explains some of the changes that will result from a strategic plan to revitalize the Church in west central Indiana. Ryan is the communication chairperson of the Terre Haute Deanery Strategic Plan. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

The English language Youcat: Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church is published by Ignatius Press of San Francisco. A copy of it will be included in each World Youth Day 2011 pilgrim’s backpack. Youth ministers across the Archdiocese of Indianapolis expect to use Youcat in their programs starting this fall.

By Sean Gallagher

In her 26 years in youth ministry at Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Ann and St. Benedict parishes in the Terre Haute Deanery, Janet Roth has had many catechetical books and resources come across her desk.

But none have quite been like Youcat, a new youth catechism sponsored by the bishops’ conferences of Austria, Germany and Switzerland that began hitting bookstore shelves earlier this year.

It was written by several bishops, theologians and youths, and edited by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, who previously served as the general editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI has endorsed Youcat, and wrote a forward for it.

While Roth values the backing of Youcat by such high-placed Church leaders, it is the book’s concise explanations of the faith and eye-catching layout that captured her attention.

Readers of Youcat first see its bright yellow cover. After opening it, they see colorful photos and drawings that accompany 527 concise question-and-answer explanations of the faith. (See a sample page here)

Finally, the margins of Youcat are filled with quotes from the Bible and spiritual writers throughout history that shed light on the adjacent question and answer.

“It’s awesome,” said Roth. “It has the best explanation of the sacraments that I’ve ever read. And I’ve read a lot. I’m sold on this.

“It’s so easy to read. And I love the quotes on the side from different people. I’m going to use different things like that when I put out my newsletter. I love the layout.”

So does Kay Scoville, director of youth ministry in the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Education.

“As a youth minister, you search for what youths will grab and not put on a shelf to gather dust,” Scoville said. “I think this is probably as close as they’re going to get.”

Rachel Breher hasn’t had to dust off her copy of Youcat. A teenage member of St. Thomas More Parish in Mooresville, she received it this spring as a high school graduation gift from Marianne Hawkins, her parish’s youth minister.

“I think it’s a great way of understanding the faith,” Rachel said. “It explains it very clearly. And it tells you where to find it in the Bible.”

In the past, she was used to having her non-Catholic friends ask her questions about her faith. She expects that to continue when she attends the University of Indianapolis in the fall.

For Rachel, Youcat is a great resource to help enlighten her friends about Catholicism.

“I get a lot of questions about my faith,” she said. “And I answer them to the best of my abilities. Then I’ll go ask my parents or another adult in the Church and see if what I thought was correct.

“I think if I just handed somebody this book and told them to find [answers] in there, they’d be able to find them.”

Youths and young adults around the world will soon find answers to questions about the faith in Youcat when it is distributed by the thousands next month at World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain.

Ken Ogorek, director of catechesis in the Office of Catholic Education, is glad to see youths and young adults like Rachel getting Youcat into their hands.

“The writing in Youcat is specifically teen-oriented,” Ogorek said. “And the abundance of great quotes in the margins and the color photos that are interspersed throughout it—all of that comes together to give teens and people who work with teens in a Catholic setting a handy, one-stop-shopping book that has sacred tradition and the deposit of faith all laid out.”

Youcat won’t only be accessible as a book that you can pull off of a shelf. Ignatius Press, which is publishing the English version, has made available an electronic version readable on such devices as the Kindle or Nook. There is a Facebook page for Youcat. And plans are in the works to make the content of Youcat easily usable in various forms of online social media.

Scoville thinks that the way in which Youcat is written and laid out will appeal to youths who are used to getting much of their information online.

“Kids are so used to reading things on the Internet and surfing it,” she said. “The reason I think this book is so good is that you can surf it. You can just read a paragraph and get a main point out of it.”

At the same time, Scoville thinks that an important way that youths will encounter Youcat will be in faith formation sessions, confirmation preparation programs and youth ministry groups in their parishes.

“I have people e-mailing me asking me where they can get 25 copies of it,” she said. “They’re really excited about it. There’s not been a resource that I’ve really seen this much enthusiasm about in a long time.”

(For information on Youcat, log on to www.youcat.us.)

 

Click on the image below to see a larger version of one of the pages in Youcat:
Section of the Youcat

 

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