“He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.'”
I am a new youth minister, going into my second full year of ministry, at a parish near Dunrovin. At my parish, I coordinate middle school and high school Faith Formation, Confirmation and youth ministry activities. I also volunteer as a staff person at Dunrovin, helping to lead youth retreats. But looking back at my path to becoming a youth minister, I now see the unfolding plans that the Lord had in store for me. Let’s first flashback to junior high.
Do you remember junior high? For many of us, junior high is a time of our lives that we don’t particularly care to remember. There are many struggles that pre-teens and teens face today, including: family troubles (separation or lack of a parent, addiction, or financial instability), peer pressure and struggling to be included by their peers, bullying and self-harm. In addition, most youth are already over committed with school, jobs and sports.
And modern society’s development of technology only contributes to these struggles. Amongst all of these trials, many youth are seeking truth, but failing to find it. Many students are also not studying or practicing their faith. In past generations, children who were raised Catholic, stayed Catholic. Perhaps they felt an obligation to remain in the faith. But in a world where our faith is incredibly counter-cultural, more and more people are turning away from their faith and are seeking the truth in all the wrong places.
The last weekend in June Dunrovin hosted 26 middle school students ( grades 6-8) for a weekend retreat. The theme of the weekend was “Cross Training.” This weekend focused on the apostle Paul’s writing comparing our faith to that of running a race and competing as athletes. Paul admonishes us to train spiritually like the athletes train physically in order to finish the race and win the prize. Students heard large group talks on this subject as well as meeting in small groups throughout the weekend to examine the Scriptures on this theme. Each group came up with a spiritual training plan that they shared with the large group. Morning and evening prayer, singing, worship, games, activities, and the celebration of the Eucharist rounded out the weekend. Everyone grew spiritually and had a fun, safe weekend. Throughout the retreat, we stressed scripture verses that are read, sung, and prayed by the youth, because scripture is an integral. part of our faith.
Sometimes, when we minister to youth, it’s difficult to see the fruits of our work, but on junior high retreats the gifts are tangible. We build pastoral relationships with the youth, we see the same students returning because they enjoy the retreats and we leave the rest up to our Lord and Savior, who knows each of us in an incredibly intimate way. Our task is to plant the seeds, and God will take care of growing the seeds into a beautiful garden.
If you are reading this, I would like to say “thank you,” because in some way you are a supporter of Dunrovin’s youth retreats. No matter if you contribute financially, through prayer, or by sending youth, your role in the ministry of Dunrovin is significant.
May God bless you always,