WINNSBORO—The enthusiasm was palpable. Teens at the youth leadership conference were singing exuberantly and praying intensely. They spoke with motivation about the concept of evangelization and it wasn’t from the buzz of soda and candy, it was the inspiration of sharing their faith with like-minded peers.
The Diocese of Charleston’s Office of Youth Ministry sponsored a weekend for 160 people from parish core groups, which includes youth ministers, adults and teens, at White Oak Conference Center. From Aug. 23-25 they heard presentations by nationally known speakers, took part in worship and activities to strengthen their prayer life, and planned how they will move forward.
And these groups must have rock solid faith foundations if they are going to positively influence their friends, which is their goal.
“You can’t give something you don’t have,” said Jerry White, director of diocesan youth ministry. “If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ you can’t give that. This is intentional training, because we don’t want to just talk about evangelization, we want to talk about how you do it, step-by-step.”
The speakers were Mike Patin, a former youth minister in the Archdiocese of New Orleans; Frank Mercadante, executive director of Cultivation Ministries, which helps youth ministries achieve their goals; Jim Beckman, director of Youth Leadership and Evangelization for the Augustine Institute in Denver; and Sarah Kroger, a musician and worship leader from Atlanta.
Patin kicked off the conference with a talk based on love for one another. These youth groups will affect those around them spiritually, not by planning, but by “integration, application and affirmation,” he said.
“They want to realize they’re not the only freak, they’re not the only one who struggles,” he explained. “I think they’re looking for community, I think they’re looking for the deep truth and sacramentality of the Catholic Church.”
Mercadante said adults need to understand millenials are hungry to connect with others.
“I think that building genuine authentic relationships opens people up to be a part of things,” he said. “It isn’t about having great programs. Undergirding every program is a web of meaningful relationships.”
The subtlety of how to share the faith was summed up by the youth director from Blessed Sacrament in Charleston.
“By being yourself, by being real with people, being authentic,” said Mike Lorenzo. “I think they’ll respond to that, because they don’t see that anymore.”
Jordan Schmidt, 16, from St. John Neumann Church said Patin used an example of a lava lamp to explain evangelization.
“You don’t want to just put it somewhere just so everyone can see it, you want to put it somewhere where it will give light,” she said. “So its not all about ‘hey, everyone look at me, I’m an example of what you should be,’ it’s ‘hey guys, I’m here to help and, like, show you what you should be aiming for.’”
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