The National Catholic Register recently reported that Catholic bishops are focusing on youth ministry as an important factor in renewing the life of local churches. St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear, Arizona, offers a great example of how to minister to youth in a meaningful way.
Located in a suburb of Phoenix, the parish has nearly doubled the size of its youth program, transforming it from traditional sacramental preparation to a more holistic approach of teaching youth from primary school through high school to be disciples in the world outside the church.
David Portugal, director of parish catechesis, works with youth and their families for sacramental preparation and in an “after sacrament program” in primary school and then taps high school and college participants to educate others. “We want to put to work all these [young people] we’ve formed,” he said.
A number of dioceses are engaging in similar practices, working to keep young people involved in the church. In the Diocese of Rochester, New York, Noelle Hiester, director of the office of evangelization and catechesis, said the diocese is providing opportunities for spiritual growth in which youth can respond to the “lived experience of the faith through events such as the National Catholic Youth Conference," which help young Catholics connect with others like them.
Developing youth ministry has great benefits for parishes and the faith as a whole. At St. John Vianney, the program has resulted in three going to seminary and nine to work in the diocese, as well as contributed to healthy marriages and new families forming.