I want to thank all of you reading for the hard work you give to God in your local youth ministry. Let me explain why you impress me. I just got back from a long trip to Camp Covecrest in Tiger, Georgia, and then onto Steubenville West in Tucson, Arizona.
My first stop at Covecrest was nothing short of fantastic! A lot of the teenagers talked about how hard they worked to raise money for camp. Others shared how excited they were throughout the school year to know that come summer time, their youth group was going to camp.
I know that behind their enthusiasm was the hard work of a parish youth ministry team. Whether you are a core member, a priest, a music minister, or a youth minister, you all pour out your time and talent on a young, often unruly generation. I mean really, some of these teenagers are awful to be around! They act like they don’t care, they don’t want to be there, that we’re just wasting our time. Whatever it took to bring those teenagers to camp–you did it. And God touched their lives in a way we’ll never fully comprehend. Just stop and think about how beautiful that is: you helped change a teenager’s life!
Let me give you an example. In between events at Covecrest I scrambled up the stairs to the camp office so I could update lifeteen.com with news from the week. While I was poking around on the website, Christina McShane (the lovely voice on the phones at Covecrest) told me how important it was for her to be involved in the youth group at her parish in high school. She explained to me:
On the last half of my trip at Steubenville West, I was stunned by the reality that I found myself in. In front of me were 900 young men. Where else would you find a group of 900 teenage men with a common cause? Seriously, where else does this happen? Not at a home football game. Not at the most popular movie theater in your town. Nope! None of those places will draw 900 teenage men. Why? They were there because you cared enough to bring them there.
I don’t know how to say this without sounding like I am repeating myself. I mean, I’ve given men’s sessions at many Catholic youth events. But it’s never hit me what a remarkable accomplishment it is just to have that many youngster in one place at one time. How wonderful it is that these guys were together, able to hear the message of true masculinity. These guys will soon be in college and then onto the workplace. Many will get married and become fathers. Wow.
So whatever you all are doing at your parishes, keep doing it! Don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up. You are changing lives!