By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Pope Francis has repeatedly called on Catholic youth to be active participants in their faith.
Addressing young people at a World Youth Day Mass in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July 2013, Pope Francis said the church needs each one of them to share the Good News with the world, according to a Catholic News Service story.
Catholic teens participating in the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB) have heeded the Holy Father’s call.
Nearly 40 members of the YAB — from parishes around the archdiocese — gathered at the Flaget Center on a cold winter afternoon in January for their quarterly meeting.
The teens began their session with group-building exercises and plenty of food. On the day’s agenda was a discussion of the recent Quest retreat.
Quest is a biennial retreat planned solely by YAB members for other teens in the archdiocese. The daylong retreat was held at Bellarmine University in November and attracted 350 participants.
With nearly 50 members on the board, the group provides a voice for the youth to the archdiocese’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry team, led by Dr. Carole Goodwin.
Goodwin said she began the YAB 19 years ago to ensure that young leaders in the church had a voice.
The teens who make up the YAB hail from all parts of the archdiocese, including Nelson, Washington, Hardin and Meade counties, and represent all nine Catholic high schools.
Goodwin said that diversity highlights how far the YAB has come since its inception.
“What’s evolved is we’ve gotten representatives from different areas of diversity and also ethnicity. We started that first year with 12 youth (mainly from Jefferson County). We knew we had to expand to get a greater representation,” Goodwin said.
Andrew Vo, who attends St. John Vianney Church, said he joined the YAB last year because he wanted to make a difference in the church.
“Society has become increasingly secular. I see friends going away from Catholicism. I thought maybe if I joined the group I could influence them to come back to the church,” Vo, a junior at duPont Manual High School, said.
Haley Musser, a parishioner of the Church of the Ascension, said she believes the YAB is a valuable resource to the archdiocese because of the witness the teens provide to other young people.
“The world is changing so fast around us. Some youth believe in the faith but don’t know how to get involved. Our job is to reach out and interact with other youth,” Musser, a sophomore at Sacred Heart Academy, said.
Goodwin said one of the major roles of the YAB is to be a resource for other archdiocesan agencies and offices. Through the years, the teens have been a sounding board for the Office of Family Ministry and various groups at Catholic Charities, she said.
The youth have discussed such questions as “What do young people need from us?” and “Why aren’t more young people involved at Mass?”
At their next meeting, the YAB will meet with Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz. To prepare for the meeting, the students were asked to consider the following questions: “What engages teens in the church (or What do teens need from the church?) and “What do you want to ask Archbishop Kurtz about his ministry in our archdiocese and in the country as per his role as president of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops?”
The YAB members are also expected to take their newly-formed leadership skills back to their parishes and schools.
Jacob Smith, a junior at St. Xavier High School, said he was able to take what he learned from the YAB to his parish, St. Martha.
“The YAB gives us a feel of a youth group. At St. Martha, we never really had a high school youth group. From this experience we were able to run with it,” Smith said.
Smith and other young leaders were able to work with the parish staff to create a formal high school youth group at St. Martha.
To join the YAB, teens can be nominated by pastors or other adults in their parishes. A large portion of YAB members have attended the Christian Leadership Institute, hosted each summer by Goodwin and her staff. Students — from sophomores to seniors — are eligible to be members of the board.
Goodwin said a leadership team such as the YAB gives her a great deal of hope for the future of the Catholic Church.
“They are so eager to connect, to be part of a community, to be heard and to go back to their parishes and take ideas,” she said.