By Fr. Juan Gaspar, OMI
San Antonio, Texas- Oblates and Youth Ministers representing Canada, California, Baja California, Texas, New York and Illinois, gathered for a Youth Minister Forum organized by the Oblate Working with Youth and Young Adult Committee. One of the most obvious intentionality was to gather and network as workers in the Lord’s vineyard as part of the Mazenodian Family.
The opening night started with dinner and night prayer before the Oblate Cross and lighting four candles, representative of the four areas of the US/CA region (North, South, East and West Coast).
Dr. Alex Gotay (Houston based Catholic Youth Minister) and Mr. Mike Patin (Catholic Speaker from Lafayette, LA) contributed tools and certain elements of methodology to approach youth ministry. Both had unique and relatable ways to engage the themes.
Frs. Jesse Esqueda OMI and Frank Santucci OMI enhanced the pastoral and spiritual influence of youth ministry within Oblate ministerial efforts to the youth and young adult. Fr. Santucci engaged the origins of St. Eugene’s personal conversion and development of pastoral efforts (pedagogy of conversion process) to the youth of Post French Revolution and thus creation of Youth Congregation of Faith-Aix, his pastoral ministry to youth. Fr. Esqueda reminded that youth ministry efforts should contain the Oblate identity and suggested 5 pillars or values to contain within Oblate Youth Ministries.
Fr. Ray Cook OMI presented surveyed data on “Personal Struggles: Young Adults and Faith.” Data information from survey reveal that young adults struggle with certain topics such as: genuine prayer not devotionals, mental illness and anxiety and pornography among catholic women and men. He encouraged Youth Ministers to learn from such information to guide youth ministry efforts. Gabriela Karaszewski (Director of Young Adult Ministry- Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston) highlighted young adult needs and reinforced the call from Pope Francis to a missionary outlook to that population. The missionary call is 1) become a culture of encounter 2) listen to the concerns 3) accompaniment through action and words 4) going out to meet the population. She finally concluded that Young Adults are seeking community and not a program, so young adult ministry is to create the community together and not simply serve them.
The Forum concluded with the support of The Tepeyac-Grotto of Lady of Lourdes’ Annual Youth Rally. This year’s theme was #KnowYourSelfie. In the spirit of a contemporary world that offers so many identities and false expectations, the rally focused on recognizing one’s own identity as being fully Human, faithful Christian and the call to be an authentic Saint. All efforts were to inspire youth from Oblate and neighboring parishes to see St. Eugene’s methodology for ministry, especially with the youth. “If we are willing to share so much in the digital world, why not share the Kingdom of Heaven”- Dr. Alex Gotay.