This past weekend I went (with another adult committed to youth ministry and two teen-aged girls) to the Diocese of Bethlehem, PA to experience "Happening", a short (almost crash) course in Christianity for kids and young adults, 9th grade up. We went to have first-hand experience of the program with a view toward establishing it in the Diocese of New York. Happening is the youth version of Cursillo. Bill (my co-hort in Christianity) and I have both experienced Cursillo; Bill was a lay rector not long ago and I (at a separate weekend) a spiritual director. So we were psyched - in a positive way.
It was a very interesting time. The youth leadership team was excellent. These kids experienced a real sense of commitment and faith and spirituality. Each had had moments of trial, of testing. And each came to rely on a sense of the Divine that was both personal and expansive. All the participants were treated to talks by these young people on tough stuff: prayer, faith, forgiveness, the Our Father, etc. Each spoke from the heart with a transparency that many adults strive for. We did (now picture this out of doors) the Stations of the Cross with a real cross. Neat.
One of the participants quoted the Diocesan Bishop of Bethlehem from a sermon he had given. He told the gathered youth "Don't let anyone call you 'the future of the Church'. You are the church NOW!".
How does your parish encourage, support and incorporate young people? How about adding a note below with a glowing success story we can all benefit from.
For my part, I'd like you to consider checking out the Happening program and see whether it could be just the thing to get the youth of your diocese to look at their faith, think about it and apply it to their lives... why lose a generation when it is among us already???
p.s. Ms. Debbie Hodgepodge has come through again and suggested I attach a link here where you can read more about this program (thans, Deb!): www.happening.org.