Strengthening faith now can help youth into adulthood

BATESBURG-LEESVILLE—The simple knowledge of God’s love helps teenagers develop a rich and vibrant faith to carry them through future difficulties and challenges.
That was the message they received at the annual diocesan Christian Leadership Institute for high school students, held at Camp Kinard July 11-15. A session for junior high students took place in June.

The annual institutes started in 1997 and are staffed by by young adults and adult volunteers. Many of the young adults are former members of the diocesan E-team, or evangelization team.

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Each day, young people woke early in the morning to begin a full day of group and individual prayer, worship, Scripture study, sports, talks and small group sessions. Some sessions were held for young men and women separately. They attended adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Mass, and had the opportunity for the sacrament of reconciliation.

A random sampling of talks on July 15 showed that youth could easily go home with a huge list of “What I learned at CLI.”

Some important ideas included:

  • Young women should realize their own beauty as a child of God. They don’t need makeup, the latest fashions, or to be the most popular because they are beautiful in their own right as a daughter of Christ.

  • Young men should strive to live a Christ-like life and respect women for who they are.

  • Teens should focus more on purity, prayer and learning who they are as a child of God instead of focusing too much on dating. Developing faith will help them find a mature, loving relationship in the future.

  • Living a strong Catholic life comes through prayer, attending Mass, reading Scripture, and surrounding yourself with people who will help guide you on the right path.

Brennan O’Gorman, 14, a member of St. Gregory the Great Church in Bluffton, was attending her second CLI session.
“I came here to relight the fire for God I had last year, and just coming back here brought all that back,” she said. “God loves us, and we’re all his creation. For teens, that message really helps us with self-confidence, because girls especially get down on ourselves.”
“I learned just how much God loves me, and how much He shows me that through people and through little things in everyday life,” said Kirby Schmidt, 16, a member of St. John Neumann Church in Columbia.
Joseph Marsh, 16, of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville, said CLI helped him commit himself to life as a man of Christ.
“I hope it will help make me a better person, a better friend and a good husband in the future,” he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the CLI is staffed by members of the E-Team.