As I write this blog, I am sitting on one of four buses from the Diocese of Austin with youth, youth ministers, chaperones and priests from several parishes on the way to St.Louis for a Youth Conference known as Stuebenville Mid-America. We’ve been on the road since 2am. I’ve perhaps gotten 45 minutes of solid sleep. The high school boys near me are more loud and talkative then the high school girls. We stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast (not exactly a healthy breakfast choice). And once we get to the conference we’ll be wearing matching shirts for the next 3 days, sleeping in college dorms, waking up at 6am (or earlier) and going to bed after midnight.
But do you know what? I love it. Because the youth (and adults) attentding are seeking a deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ. They realize, as Bl.Pope JP II put it “…this quest is the inner law of their lives.” Because despite the less comfortable and inconvenient aspects of the trip, the opportunities to encounter Christ make it all worth it. There’s daily Mass, Adoration, Reconciliation, encouraging speakers, time for prayer and catechesis (learning about the Catholic faith), faith community building and more.
July 1 marked seven years as the full-time, paid Director of Youth Ministry at my parish, St.Ignatius, Martyr. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful community to work for and with. It’s an absolute blessing to work with youth, walking with them in the ups-and-downs of their faith journeys. I’ve taught, walked ahead and beside them, ministered to and with them, witnessed their accomplishments, been with them in suffering and pain.
I have witnessed the needs and desires of teens to grow in faith, holiness and love of God countless times, and pray I continue to witness it and be a part of the process. I have been called to help lead teens closer to Christ despite the less pleasant aspects of the job (note: I am NOT a morning person). I am blessed to work with teens, some of which are purposefully seeking Christ and some of which do not yet have a developed relationship with Him but just know in their depths their need for God.
“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.” -Blessed Pope John Paul II