February 6, 2015

A tradition of giving back: New Albany Deanery Catholic Youth Ministries marks 50 years of faith

A choir sings during the New Albany Deanery Catholic Youth Ministries 50th jubilee Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in New Albany on Jan. 11. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

A choir sings during the New Albany Deanery Catholic Youth Ministries 50th jubilee Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in New Albany on Jan. 11. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

NEW ALBANY—For 50 years, New Albany Deanery Catholic Youth Ministries (NADCYM) has been ministering to youths and young adults in Clark, Floyd and Harrison counties in southern Indiana, and helping parishes in the deanery do the same.

The jubilee is not just a milestone of years—it is a tribute to the lives affected by NADCYM during that time. (Related: New Albany Deanery Catholic Youth Ministries plans several events to celebrate 50th jubilee)

“There are people married today who met on one of our retreats, and now their kids are involved,” said NADCYM director Marlene Stammerman, who was led to youth ministry by her own involvement with the group as a youth.

“Through that volunteerism and the youth minister at the time, I felt called into youth ministry,” she said. “I am definitely a minister today in the Church because of [New Albany Deanery] Catholic Youth Ministries.”

The ministry was started in 1965 as a separate branch of the archdiocesan Catholic Youth Organization (CYO).

“Back then, CYO was more social, like dances, not so much athletics like it is today,” Marlene said.

In the late 1970s, the organization changed its goals and functions to be more in line with the 1976 United States bishops’ document, “A Vision of Youth Ministry.”

“That document moved youth ministry forward to be a more comprehensive ministry,” said Stammerman, who has served as NADCYM director for six years.

Parishes in the deanery started to hire youth ministers. As more such positions were filled and more collaboration took place, the need to develop an overall deanery office of youth ministry emerged.

Over the last five decades, NADCYM has expanded to offer programs, services, retreats, mission trips, social events, service opportunities, athletics, family ministry, Hispanic ministry and training for middle school-aged youth to adults up to age 39.

“We also offer indirect services, supporting our 18 parishes in their youth and young adult ministry efforts,” Stammerman said. “If you look at all the services we provide, there are 6,000-7,000 [people] involved.”

A special Mass was celebrated on Jan. 11 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in New Albany to mark the jubilee. Auxiliary Bishop Christopher J. Coyne served as celebrant with 11 priests present as concelebrants. Despite a forecast of freezing rain, sleet and ice, more than 200 people gathered to worship at the jubilee Mass.

In his homily, Bishop Coyne referred to a recent study called “Young Catholic Americans: Emerging Adults In, Out of, and Gone from the Church,” in which roughly 500 young Catholics from around the United States were followed for more than 15 years.

“They were from good Catholic families,” the bishop said. “[The kids] were active in the Church. They went to Sunday Mass every weekend. They were involved in youth ministry.

“By the time they turned 27, only 17 percent of them had anything to do with the Church.”

Those among the 17 percent cited their parents’ and family’s faithful witness as the reason for their continued active life in the Church.

“In other words, they weren’t just active in the parish,” Bishop Coyne explained. “They weren’t just going to Mass every Sunday, but at home they prayed. Their parents tried to live out the ethics and morality of the faith.”

He challenged those attending the Mass to do the same, and to do so joyfully.

“I overheard a young woman in conversation at lunch at a restaurant,” said Bishop Coyne. “She told her friend she’d tried the Catholic faith, then said, ‘But I didn’t stay. It’s like they’re mourning their religion.’ Who wants to join a sad Church?

“We need to be joyful and welcoming and filled with Christ, and filled with authentic discipleship, and filled with the Holy Spirit that comes from baptism, is renewed in confirmation and celebrated in our gatherings.”

Several members of the New Albany Deanery Catholic Youth Ministries seem to fall among the percentage of young adults who stay in the Church. Some mentioned their desire to give back to the ministry for all they had received, and to do what they can to see that the organization is around for another 50 years.

“It’s that sense of giving back,” said Stammerman. “It’s kind of ingrained here in this deanery. I was definitely a recipient of that, and have passed it along. I got into [youth ministry] thinking if I could make a difference in one kid’s life … . God has blessed that most definitely.”

She has seen NADCYM help numerous people in various ways, from turning lives around to simply providing a Catholic home for newcomers to the area, like Jesse and Catie Eichhorn.

The couple, in their mid-20s, are members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish. They moved from Missouri to the New Albany area for work three years ago.

“Having the ability to meet people our own age with our faith and values has definitely made the transition easier,” said Catie. “I don’t know what we would have done without them. They’ve really blessed us.”

The Eichhorns have already started showing the “ingrained” tendency of those involved in NADCYM to give back. Jesse is now leading a young adult Bible study, the couple has chaperoned retreats and they help out “wherever we’re needed.”

Josh Book, a 24-year-old member of St. Michael Parish in Bradford, has also benefited from the group and enjoys giving back in return.

Since high school, he has participated and led in many aspects of NADCYM, including retreats, mission trips, service opportunities and one summer as an intern for the ministry.

“It’s a good place to go to be able to talk about God and be a good practicing Catholic,” said Book. “I get camaraderie with other people my age that want to be involved in the same things. It’s given me a place to belong, and I enjoy giving back.”

Like Stammerman, Book’s experience with Catholic Youth Ministries in the New Albany Deanery has nurtured in him a desire to one day be a youth minister.

“I don’t have time right now,” said Book, who is working and going to school full time. “But I hope to keep [NADCYM] going along another 50 years and pass it to the next generation.”

(For more information on New Albany Deanery Catholic Youth Ministries, log on to www.nadyouth.org.)

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