By Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello
One of the main components of Generations of Faith is youth evangelization. A substantial portion of the monies contributed to the campaign will support the Catholic Youth Ministry Initiative that was inaugurated in Brooklyn and Queens during 2013 at the request of Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.
The initiative addresses a long-standing concern within the Church that, after Confirmation, youth attendance at Mass and involvement in church life drops dramatically. While parishes have long recognized this as a priority, funding has not been available to address the need.
The goal of the initiative is straightforward: to engage young people of middle school and high school age in church life and deepen their faith, encouraging them to give back to their parishes as volunteers as well as by attending Mass regularly and getting involved in the liturgy, which also engages their parents and families in parish life.
The Catholic Foundation for Brooklyn and Queens and the Diocesan Office of Faith Formation were charged with developing the initiative. They formed a committee of pastors and administrators, diocesan youth ministers, lay leaders and principals to create the framework of a pilot youth evangelization program and to oversee implementation of the program. After considering a number of different options, the committee selected a proven comprehensive youth ministry program developed by the nationally recognized Center for Ministry Development (CMD).
The CMD program was successfully tested in seven parishes selected to provide a varied and diverse sampling of the many different communities present in Brooklyn and Queens.
These seven parishes represented different ethnic groups and included parishes with and without schools as well as those with and without existing youth programs.
Today, the Catholic Youth Ministry Initiative in the Diocese of Brooklyn has grown to include 26 parishes in Brooklyn and Queens, employing 15 part- and full-time youth ministers, with an expected increase to 43 total parishes and 24 youth ministers by the fall. Parish programs also focus on building community with service opportunities and developing leadership skills with small group meetings.
The Catholic Foundation completely funds the professional development provided by CMD, as well as the salaries for partand full-time youth ministers. With the hope that Generations of Faith, the diocese’s recently announced capital campaign, will meet its goals, every parish in Brooklyn and Queens will be able to take part in the Catholic Youth Ministry Initiative within the next seven years, resulting in an immeasurable increase in youth engagement within our diocese.
The Catholic Youth Ministry Initiative offers our youth “a home, a place of belonging with trained ministers to walk with them in their faith journey at a critical point in their lives,” says Dr. James Walters, youth minister at St. Mel’s, Flushing. Amen to that!