Not all days in youth ministry are the same. Fact.
If you’re in ministry, you know exactly what I mean. Emails, meetings, events, permission slips, on and on and on. The list some days feels literally a mile long. And we can begin to wonder if anything we do, especially the mundane, even matters. You know, the rigor of every day, behind-the-scenes duties of a youth minister. The saying goes that “character is what you do when no one is watching.” If there was ever a lesson on character, this was it.
This fall, as a part of our semester on the Church, our Edge youth wrote letters to our local Bishop thanking him for his example of holiness.
I could have done one of two things with these letters:
- Throw them away (“Who are we kidding… the Bishop is not going to really read them, is he?”) or
- Obediently mail them in
The letters in and of themselves weren’t anything over-the-top extravagant, but they were written from the heart, so I couldn’t disappoint the kids and leave them in the bottom of my desk drawer.
Weeks after the letters left my office and I barely remembered sending them, I received this email from our Bishop’s assistant:
“I’m emailing on behalf of Bishop Morlino, who received some very nice letters from your students recently. He was very impressed and would like to meet your students in person.”
To say the least, I was ecstatic. The Core Team was shocked and the kids beyond excited! Stuff like this just doesn’t happen every day.
The visit itself was grand. The youth decorated hand-made posters welcoming him and escorted him to our gymnasium where he was greeted with applause. Our Bishop spent an entire hour answering every last question these young people had. He joked with them, shared his favorite sport (which is college football), how he discerned the vocation of Holy Orders, and his first meeting with Pope Francis.
But more importantly, he shared what he loves about being Catholic and how the middle schoolers had inspired him. I can’t imagine what an impression this humble apostle of Christ left on our youth’s hearts. But I can tell you that he certainly changed my heart.
The two things that struck me the most from this experience were:
1. He was Personal
He took the time to find out who I am and what I’m all about. From the moment he walked in the door he knew me. Not just my face from last year’s Confirmation Mass or that I was the parish youth minister, but he knew my story. That I had kids with health concerns. He wanted to know how they were doing and assured me of his prayers for them daily.
2. Trust in the Holy Spirit
I can fall into the all-too-familiar trap of evaluating the success of a program by how many kids sign up for Steubenville, how loudly they sing the praise and worship songs during a send, or how well the flow of an Edge or Life Night goes. In reality, this should be the win we look for. I cannot think of a higher compliment to the work of the Holy Spirit than the Shepherd of our Diocese driving an hour on a stormy night to be with a room full of teens.
So the lesson?
When you read the outline for an Edge or Life Night and it asks for letters to be wrote to the Bishop, sick or homebound parishioners, parents, or the Holy Father for Pete’s sake (pun intended) — send them! Don’t look at it as an added item on your to-do list or a burden to look up the zip code to the Vatican. Don’t doubt for even a second their value and worth. The fruits of this one, 46 cent stamp was worth every penny. Be God’s!