Catholic youth ministers in the Diocese of Parramatta looking for new ways to engage young people in Catholic life heard they need to be where young people are at, and find opportunities for youth ministry in creative spaces, at the ‘Called to be Saints’ Catholic Youth Parramatta (CYP) workshop on Saturday at West HQ.
The workshop was also the launch of the new CYP training resource Called to be Saints. The resource has been designed to help youth ministers train others in youth ministry. It sets out focus areas across six sessions starting with establishing the mission of youth ministry, through to how leaders can appropriately share their stories – a powerful tool for reflection and learning. A feature of the resource is the story of a saint or other person of strong faith, whose experience can inspire particular aspects of youth ministry.
Guest speaker Raimie Caramanion from Street University, a youth centre in Mt Druitt, joined Eleanor Stuart from Holy Spirit Parish St Clair, and Damian Khoury, the Young Lasallians Coordinator for Australia to share how they had reconnected with youth in the Diocese throughout and following disruptions due to COVID.
Damian emphasized the need to connect with young people and listen for what they first want to learn about. “Be intentional in finding out where the group is at,” he said.
Raimie, seeking a way to become more relatable to the young people she works with, found herself learning about the social media platform they use, Tik Tok. Discussing the songs that accompany the clips on the platform with young people was a great way of tapping into what interests the young people she comes in contact with, she said.
Eleanor admitted that it had been hard to get young people to return to the parish youth group after COVID, but the youth ministers were ensuring they were making themselves as visible as possible in the parish.
Some of the themes that arose in discussion during the event included:
- The power of story-telling in youth ministry. Youth leaders are called to be storytellers but this takes preparation so the testimony is clear, effective and intentional.
- Youth meetings need to be held regularly to make it easier for young people to attend. Meetings are vital to help build friendships, a sense of belonging and provide opportunities for deeper discussions about the faith. Some of the most successful youth groups have regular activities every two weeks. If the gap between meetings or events is too long, they lose momentum.
- Sometimes the most effective conversations with young people can take place in the breaks or downtime during activities.
- Youth ministers need to be intentional about connecting with young people where they are at. Make the connection with the young person first, then listen to how the young person might want to talk or learn about faith.
- Young people often need to feel they know a person before they will even talk to them, so youth ministers should allow some young people to just attend a group for a while before expecting them to have a conversation.
- Even if you don’t feel comfortable reaching into the spaces that young people are in, such as exploring a new social media platform, participating in a new sport, or doing something creative, don’t let your fear stop you from creating what could be a new opportunity for a young person to connect with their faith.
Anastasia Boulus, a youth minister at Our Lady of the Rosary at Kellyville attended with the rest of the OLR youth ministry team, and sees the value in ongoing youth ministry training.
“You may be stronger in one area of youth ministry than another,” she said. “I have no issue in making connections,” she said, “but I struggled with the faith formation aspect.” She admits everyone has a different strength and different weakness. She anticipates Called to be Saints will support their ongoing leader formation. “It gives us some structure to leader formation,” she said. “It will also help us in our planning.”
Mitchel Levik from St Patrick’s Cathedral finds it is important for a youth ministry group to be clear on their mission, as these can vary from group to group. “People attend parishes and youth groups that meet their needs,” he said.
Cryste Degollacion from Mary Queen of the Family Parish at Blacktown sees the power of events, particularly the LIFTED events held by CYP. “After COVID we relaunched and attracted 30 new young people,” she told the group. “We use the LIFTED sports days and retreats to get a group together, and a reason for young people to invite their friends along.”
The Called to Be Saints interactive booklet can be downloaded for free at https://parracatholic.org/cyp-resources/.
Limited hard copies can be obtained from Catholic Youth Parramatta by emailing Qwayne at firstname.lastname@example.org