Fr. Dan Gurnick
The Edmonton Archdiocese has three pastoral priorities for youth: 1) Help them encounter Christ, 2) Form them in the faith of his Church, and 3) Help them discover their personal call.
Those priorities were under discussion at an information session held July 7 at the Pastoral and Administration Offices. A Look Ahead: Youth Evangelization Strategy was held as a follow-up to the 2011 youth evangelization summit.
In 2010, Archbishop Richard Smith asked for a review of the archdiocese's two camps, Camp Encounter and Our Lady of Victory Camp.
Through this process, in May 2010, a committee was set up. From September 2010 to April 2011, listening sessions on youth evangelization were held across the archdiocese.
As well, surveys were conducted in Catholic schools. All of this culminated in a youth summit in May 2011.
Summarizing the summit, Smith said, "The priorities I am establishing for the archdiocese are three: evangelization, faith formation and vocation promotion. The three pastoral priorities comprise a single vision."
Those working with young people in parishes, schools, summer camps and other initiatives sometimes find they are working alone, apart from each other and the rest of the Church.
Andrew Papenbrock, the archdiocese's director of youth evangelization, said the summit helped bring disparate youth groups together.
While the archdiocese and individual parishes need evangelization at the heart of their mission, "it doesn't make sense to start with one large plan."
Rather, the evangelization plan "will probably look like a patchwork quilt made up of smaller squares and many small initiatives," said Papenbrock.
The many squares of the youth evangelization quilt include other youth, families, parish life, schools, summer camps and the Internet.
Margot Bilodeau, with the secular institute of the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, said young people are on their computers much of the time, and this is the modern way of reaching young people with the Gospel message.
"There is so much out there that is colourful, attractive, well-put. Young people look at those (websites) on the Internet all the time, so we should have something similar that is powerful and attracts them," said Bilodeau, who helps young people discern their vocations.
Again, this is a patchwork, with many groups already having their own websites, including the Edmonton Archdiocese, Father Catfish (Father Mike Moreau), Life Teen, the WCR, Newman Theological College, St. Joseph Seminary and individual parishes.
Franciscan Father Dan Gurnick said when people hear the term "vocation," their immediate thought is religious life or priesthood.
"Often the people who probably get neglected the most are the single people. Whether it's through circumstances or whether they feel called to the single life, their vocation is not really fostered. We need more attention there," said Gurnick.
Gurnick said sometimes youth dismiss their own parents. In such cases, a priest, youth minister or teacher can have a greater impact on a child, even if they only speak to a child occasionally.
"I think it's important to keep in mind that even though we might not see them very often, our impact on them can be great. Sometimes it only takes one encounter," said Gurnick.
In the sacrament of Reconciliation, children share their darkest secrets that they might not share with anyone else. Potentially, a five-minute encounter with the child could change his or her life.