Growing Youth Ministry Helps Teens Boldly Live their Faith
In less than a year, the youth ministry at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Hudson has grown five times larger, going from an average of five teens each week to twenty-five. This is thanks in part to the efforts of youth minister Vincent Washburn who took over the program in December 2018. Washburn has mailed letters about events, opened up the ministry to eighth-grade Confirmation students and established a core team of teens who have been instrumental in the programs’ growth by welcoming and inviting their peers to join them. While the personal invitations and event promotions have certainly contributed to a more thriving ministry, Washburn said that their efforts can only go so far.
“The only way our program has seen this much success is by the grace of God,” said Washburn. “While we are working hard to revitalize our program and reach out more to our young parishioners, I take this as a sign that the Lord is doing amazing things through the young people at St. Michael’s.”
The teens meet each week where they focus heavily on Scripture and their mission to share the message of Jesus Christ with the world around them. In addition to their regular meetings, they also have “Teen Nights” and off-campus trips. All of these events give the youth the opportunity to form faith-filled friendships and, most importantly, empower them to Courageously Live the Gospel.
“My goals for the program are to continue to offer opportunities for our teens in the parish to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and to not be afraid to make it the most important thing in their life,” said Washburn.
“Coming to youth ministry every week is something I look forward to,” said Olivia, an eighth-grade student in the ministry. “We learn, but at the same time, we have fun. We get to know each other better and share a lot of laughs. Here at youth ministry you immediately feel accepted. We share our faith as one.”
Washburn makes it a point to encourage the teens to take responsibility for their faith by asking questions and getting involved in ministries outside of the youth group, be that liturgical ministry or ministries of service.
“For me the most rewarding part of the ministry is seeing the teens discover their own faith,” said Washburn. “That being said, seeing them take ownership of their Catholic faith is not just a blessing to me, but a blessing to the Church at large.”
One of the ways the teens will be sharing their gifts with the wider community is at the Parish Family Christmas Party on December 13. The entire parish is invited to an evening of holiday festivities where the youth will provide a portion of the entertainment to make the event an enjoyable experience of building community and celebrating the birth of Jesus. St. Michael’s wants to inspire all its parishioners, young and old alike, to Courageously Live the Gospel. Community events like the Christmas party and faith formation events such as bible studies and parish missions, and of course, life-changing encounters with Jesus in the Eucharist at Mass on Sundays, all work together to encourage parishioners to boldly share their faith.
“The hope is that with every encounter with Jesus Christ that happens here, it propels them to share their faith with everyone they meet,” explained Washburn.
Washburn points to Saint Paul and Saint John Paul II as two examples of how to live a courageous faith. Saint Paul, who fearlessly proclaimed the message of Jesus in the face of great challenges and persecutions, was willing to join the apostles and become “fools for Christ’s sake” (1 Cor. 4:10). Saint John Paul II, the patron saint of St. Michael’s youth ministry, was known for often repeating the phrase, “Be not afraid” and was a tremendous example of trusting in God’s will.
“These two awesome saints I believe are great inspirations for all of us to live a courageous faith,” said Washburn. “The same Holy Spirit that gave them the courage to live their faith, is the same Spirit giving me and you the courage to live ours.”