‘Trying to break open what mercy is’

First slide

Teenagers eschew monotony and smell inauthenticity a mile away. The diocesan Youth Ministry Office clearly has taken this to heart, and year after year it tries to arrange programs that are fresh, engaging and infused with faith.

This year's theme, "Show Know Mercy," was inspired by the jubilee year announced by Pope Francis, and it flips the meaning of the stereotypical teen adage "Show No Mercy."

Last April, the pope issued "Misericordiae Vultus" ("The Face of Mercy"), a bull of indiction calling for an extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy to begin Dec. 8.

In "Misericordiae Vultus," Pope Francis points to the Gospel directive to "be merciful just as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6:36), and this year's World Youth Day theme is "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy" (Mt 5:7).

"Our theme is from these two slightly different takes on mercy," said Kevin Bohli, director of the Youth Ministry Office. "We are called to show mercy because we first were shown, and knew, the mercy of God. … This year we will be trying to break open what mercy is."

The staples

This year's high school Rally will be Oct. 18, returning to Marymount University in Arlington for the third time. Holding it at Marymount "gives it a college quad party kind of feel," Bohli said. Catholic fan-favorite Matt Maher is playing for the young crowd amid his multistate tour and not long after performing at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Paul Kim, a Catholic beatboxing phenom (beatboxing is a musical and vocal technique that imitates percussion and turntabling sounds), is the keynote speaker.

In conjunction with the March for Life in Washington Jan. 22, the Youth Ministry Office will hold its "Life is Very Good" evening of prayer Jan. 21 and its rally and Mass the morning of the march. Bohli noted that spots for "Life is Very Good" events - both at EagleBank Arena, formerly the Patriot Center, in Fairfax - fill up quickly.

The junior high Bash will feature Popple, a two-man Catholic rock band that shares music and reflections. The event rotates to different diocesan high schools, and this year Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries hosts it April 16.

WorkCamp runs July 25 through Aug. 1 next summer, and for the first time its home base will be Massaponax High School in Fredericksburg. The event draws 800 teens from across the diocese and is a perfect occasion to emphasize the jubilee year's theme and discuss corporal and spiritual works of mercy, said Bohli.

The Youth Ministry Office also is organizing a trip to World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, July 18 through Aug. 1. However, most spots already are filled.

What's new

To enrich youth ministers' catechesis efforts, the Office of Youth Ministry has added a new piece to its four-year "Journey to Emmaus" curriculum. There are now 5-minute videos that correspond with each lesson and tackle everything from "truth, freedom and responsibility" to "sacraments and grace."

Some videos were drawn from YouTube and others will be made in-house.

The videos can be shown during Scout meetings, sports practice or prayer groups and are an effort to reach those students who "may never set foot in a formal youth group," Bohli said.

A new retreat for Hispanic youths is planned for April 1-3 at Hunting Ridge Retreat in Winchester. "Encuentro Juvenil" ("Youth Encounter") is an opportunity for young people "to experience a conversion retreat based on discipleship," said Bohli. He hopes it will be a springboard for participants to return to their parishes and build small groups for ongoing formation.

Bohli believes this year's events are a chance for youths to grasp more fully what mercy means.

Indifference is much like the opposite of mercy, said Bohli. Mercy doesn't mean ignoring what people do, it means actively caring for and loving others. "It's a verb," he said. "It's an action."

Scott can be reached at kscott@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @KScottACH.

The Office of Youth Ministry is funded through the annual Bishop's Lenten Appeal.

Find out more

To sign up for diocesan Youth Ministry Office events and to learn more, go to bit.ly/1EUEfpG.


This year's logo and theme for youth ministry was inspired by the Holy Year of Mercy, which begins Dec. 8.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015