Young people make a difference by sharing Christ at conference


LAKE WYLIE — “Youth are not the future of the church. They are the church now.”

That was the message that Jerry White, director of the diocesan Youth and Young Adults Ministry Office, stressed when talking about the record number of youth and adults taking part in the eighth annual Diocesan State Youth Conference. The event, held at Camp Thunderbird on Lake Wylie the weekend of March 12-14, attracted over 650 attendees from an all-time high number of parishes also.Chris Padgett of Scarecrow and Tinmen

Keynote presenters for the weekend Doug Brummel, Scarecrow & Tinmen (see related sidebar article), and Angela Crimi highlighted a packed program containing ice-breakers, sports, separate men’s and women’s sessions, individual deanery meetings, concerts, a dance/coffee house, awards presentation, and concluding Mass.

The weekend began with a mini-concert from Bradenton, Florida-based Scarecrow & Tinmen, followed by a keynote presentation from Crimi. With the release of “Heaven Knows Me,” the 21-year-old singer has been getting plenty of opportunities to express her contagious faith stories with others. Songs like “Here I Am Lord” and “Glimpse of Paradise” presented the Gospel of Christ is a way that was both upbeat and down to earth. Her story challenged all to simply not know their faith, but to live it.

Saturday morning’s speaker, Doug Brummel, began work as a youth minister at St. Anne’s Parish in Oswego, Ill., followed by a position as director of retreats at Christian’s La Salle Manor Retreat House in Plan, Ill. In December 1991, he founded his own ministry service, Ministry in Motion, in response to request for his ministry services. He is in constant demand to perform at diocesan youth conferences across the nation. Brummel performed at last year’s National Catholic Youth Conference in Kansas City, and will again be a presenter at the 1999 gathering in St. Louis.

Before the start of the youth conference, some teens and their adult sponsors were startled/upset to see a homeless man with an all to common “Will Work for Food” sign standing near the entrance to the campgrounds. Adding to the sense of nervousness of some of the audience, this transient appeared unannounced in the main meeting room of the lodge the next day, saying that he would like to ask a question.

The stranger then began to share a story about his family, who were killed by a teen-ager drunk driver. He said he was offered food, comfort and consolation by church members for about a week after the funerals. Then, however, the visits stopped, he said. The man relayed how he had never really felt comfortable in church anyway, because he wasn’t able to afford nice clothes.

After informing his employer about the deaths of his wife and children, he was told he could “have the day off,” but that would be the extent of his company’s compassion. He lost his job and quickly fell into credit card debt, resulting in the loss of his home.

The visitor then gave the spellbound teens a description of various homeless shelters he had stayed in during his travels around the country, telling them what they were really like.

He closed by asking listeners to imagine how they would feel if they were in his circumstances. After he left, the song, “Don’t Laugh At Me,” a popular country tune from recording artist Mark Wills, was played, and several in the audience went looking for the man who had just made the powerful presentation.

He turned out to be Brummel, portraying a character he and Jerry White has devised just for this group. According to White, the impact from this talk was so powerful that Brummel will now probably use this portrayal in talks he gives to other groups.

To lighten the mood, Brummel then performed as “Estelle,” a non-Catholic with many questions about what goes on in a Catholic parishes. She asked questions such as, “What are these mints I keep hearing about (meaning sacraments)?” Estelle was also curious about “church aerobics,” dealing with standings, sitting and kneeling during the liturgy.

After Brummel’s presentation, deanery meetings were held to serve as a “mini Synod,” said White, who added that these served as listening sessions to bring forth ideas about what teens thought should happen at the deanery level as far as programs.

In the evening, following the high energy concert by Scarecrow & Tinmen, members of the Diocesan Youth Council led a drama, titled “Dear Anybody,” which dealt with suicide. It served as an “invitation to be counted, to share their faith commitment,” said White, who added that “almost everyone came forward.”

White singled out members of the Diocesan Youth Council for their “strong witness” and assistance in planning the conference, leading skits, facilitating discussion groups, and even developing a power-point presentation for graphics during talks.

The concluding Mass at the conference also served to highlight the Life Teen band from St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville, which White credited with having “a lot of good singers.” The GOD Squad, a group of adults who provide security for the weekend, was also thanked for their efforts.

As for next year, the diocesan youth minister sees a bigger event, with more people, more training for adults, and more interactive programs for the teens.