In his 2019 apostolic exhortation to young people “Christus Vivit,” Pope Francis said that the voices and concerns of young people need to be heard.
“To be credible to young people, there are times when she (the Church) needs to regain her humility and simply listen, recognizing that what others have to say can provide some light to help her better understand the Gospel,” he writes.
Listening to the needs of youth and young adults and creating opportunities for spiritual growth are at the heart of a new plan aiming to support those working with young people.
The Archdiocese of Louisville released the 2020-2024 strategic plan for the Office of Youth and Young Adults this week. In a letter introducing the plan, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said it will “help ensure that our youth and young adults have Catholic formation opportunities that offer personal and spiritual growth and that are responsive to their rapidly evolving lives.”
He thanked the pastors, youth and young adult ministers, high school and college campus ministers and archdiocesan staff who participated in the development of the plan.
Tink Guthrie, vice-chancellor of the Archdiocese of Louisville, said from the outset, planning for the strategic plan was rooted in the belief that encounters with Jesus Christ are essential.
“It’s not just going to youth gatherings or amusement parks or having a cookout, but it’s about the encounter with Jesus Christ and his church,” Guthrie said in a phone interview last week.
Karl Dolson, director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, said there was a great deal of dialogue between parishes, high schools, colleges and archdiocesan offices to determine the focus and tone of the plan.
The strategic plan is rooted in those reflections as well as input by a task force committee and archdiocesan offices.
It consists of five goals.
Goal 1: To promote an archdiocesan-wide vision of the importance and value of youth and young adults in our Catholic faith communities.
Goal 2: To identify, form, and engage mentors and catechetical leaders in sharing their faith with youth and young adults.
Goal 3: To identify key catechetical themes and present them in a variety of formats to diverse audiences of youth and young adults.
Goal 4: To provide opportunities for youth and young adults to celebrate their Catholic faith with larger groups of young people.
Goal 5: To ensure the Office of Youth and Young Adults remains responsive and effective to the needs of young people throughout the Archdiocese.
has a part to play
Dolson said the strategic plan is a framework by which parishes and schools can evaluate or reflect on their own ministries.
“I want the people of the archdiocese to know that everyone has a hand in this. If you are discouraged or disappointed with the church’s ministry to youth and young adults, you have a hand in that. You can play a part to help fix that.
“You not only have a part to play but an obligation, a call as Catholics to minister to the younger generation and to translate the message of Christ and the message of the church into a language or framework they can respond to,” Dolson said.
Lift up young voices
Some goals enhance and expand on existing formation opportunities and others, such as Goal 5, intend to lift up leaders, particularly among young adults.
Dolson said there will be more intentional effort placed on cultivating leaders among young adults and ensuring their voices will be heard — whether on archdiocesan-wide councils or planning groups.
Walking with youth
Another theme that emerged from the plan is the importance of mentorship, of catechetical leaders walking with young people, said Guthrie. The plan calls for parishes and schools to identify such leaders and mentors and provide training to them.
“Mentorship can take different forms. A mentor can answer some questions about the church. Or it can be a teacher that walks with them through life because maybe their home situation is not stable,” Guthrie said.
Laura Zoeller, associate director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, said young people want to make a difference in building God’s kingdom “as they serve like Jesus calls them to serve as disciples.”
“Ideally, the steps in this plan will offer support through retreats, the sacraments, conversations, athletics, Scouts, etc., to our youth and young adults living this out,” she said.
Zoeller said the plan should be utilized by parishes and schools to encourage “accompaniment of our young people by the elders, to build up peer ministry and to support each and every” young person in identifying God’s purpose for their life.
A guide for
Mia Cooper, part-time volunteer youth minister at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church and a member of the task force, said the strategic plan gives her a guide on what she should be striving for in her work with young people.
Cooper said she desires to see two things come from the plan: increased engagement of youth and young adults in parishes and to make space for young people to be leaders.
“We need youth and young adults to feel included, to have a voice and have a role. I hope to see our youth really take on leadership roles,” she said. “It’s important to understand this plan, to read it, digest it and understand that the goals set forth are intentional for our youth and young adults to be able to lift them and catapult them into their faith journey.”
Erin Maguire-Osting, campus minister at DeSales High School and a member of the task force, said the plan offers ministers a chance to reevaluate and revitalize their ministries to young people.
“How can we look at today’s youth and tweak some of our current offerings to hit home with what students are interested in now? Things students really want are service opportunities, to connect with other students over activity or worship or prayer,” Maguire-Osting said.
The strategic plan can be viewed here.