Youth Ministers Forum with Archbishop Aymond
by Bro. Jerry Meegan, SDB
On Saturday, August 25, Archbishop Gregory Aymond celebrated Mass for the youth ministers of the Archdiocese of New Orleans at Transfiguration Church in Metairie, La. This was the first formal meeting of the new school year for the youth ministers. The program included Mass, dinner, and open forum with the archbishop and Timmy McCaffery, the new director of the Archdiocesan CYO/Youth Ministry Office. About 45 youth ministers were in attendance.
During Mass the archbishop spoke about the Gospel and the process of decision-making that the apostles and the followers of Jesus had to make. He related this to the type of decisions our youths have to make on a regular basis and how we have to guide them to own their decisions. He pointed out that even if the youths make bad decisions, we have to stand by them and accompany them along the way and be there for them when they realize they may have made a bad decision.
Dinner followed in the gym of the new office building for the archdiocesan office for CYO/Youth Ministry. As dinner was running its course Mr. McCaffery addressed the group first by introducing the new office staff. After transitions, the entire office staff is new. This was followed by some remarks and then an introduction of the archbishop.
Archbishop Aymond started by thanking the youth ministers for their ministry for the young Church of today. He reminded the group that we are not speaking of the Church of the future, but of the young Church today! In his remarks the archbishop addressed the Pennsylvania Report, the upcoming Synod of Bishops, pornography, and suicide prevention.
Addressing the Pennsylvania Report, the archbishop pointed out that since the National Conference of Catholic Bishops established the Charter for the Protection of Children (2002), only two cases of abuse took place in Pennsylvania. This shows that the bishops’ safe environment guidelines are in place and working. He asked all the youth ministers to address this Pennsylvania Report with their youth groups to see how much of an impact it has had on them and what their questions and concerns are about it. Unfortunately, good priests are being tainted by this report. We have to listen to what our youths have to say and walk with them in their doubts and concerns.
The archbishop mentioned the three-year program initiated last year to combat pornography. This program will be bringing forth new initiatives this school year. The question of suicide is an important issue also. The rate of teenage suicides has risen steadily in our country. The rate has tripled in the past ten years.
When speaking about the upcoming synod, youth ministers are encouraged to address the questions with their youth groups: where are our youths today in regard to the Church, and what can we do for them. It becomes important for us to advocate that our youths reach out to a companion or friend who is no longer involved with the Church and ask these youths to listen to them and invite them back to the faith. Youth ministry has many dimensions for us which weave us in prayer, call us to model Jesus, and challenge us to address questions about the Church and Jesus. We have to realize the amount of power that youth ministers have with their youths in helping them to know Jesus today. The archbishop concluded by quoting Pope Francis: there will be no revolution of love without tenderness—the tenderness of Christ.
After the archbishop’s talk there was some time for table discussions followed by questions. The meeting concluded with Mr. McCaffery’s reviewing some of the salient events on the calendar which everyone had received at their places.