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Diocese prepares for World Youth Day and beyond

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The Office of Youth, Campus, and Young Adult Ministries chose “Rejoice” as its theme of the year. The busy office has much to be excited about. In addition to classic youth events such as RALLY and Life is VERY good, they’re working on new programs and getting ready for the upcoming World Youth Day in Panama City. 

In parish youth ministry, Kevin Bohli, executive director, is encouraging adult leaders to go beyond catchall gatherings and create smaller, specialized groups. “For example, St. Veronica has a new ministry called Cooking with Purpose. It’s moms and kids coming together and the idea is that the leaders are catechizing and modeling the faith in the midst of what they’re doing,” he said. “St. Mary in Fredericksburg has a run club. We’re just encouraging the directors of youth ministry to be a lot more creative in finding ways to get young people active in the life of their parish.”

Many years ago, the office created a high school youth ministry curriculum, Journey to Emmaus, that they continue to update, said Bohli. It’s used in Arlington as well as 10 other dioceses and 20 individual parishes. 

In the spring, the office is hosting its first Catholic Scouting Family Campout weekend in Haymarket. Religious emblems will be awarded to the Scouts there and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge will celebrate Mass. 

Next year’s WorkCamp will be held in King George, about a half-hour east of last year’s location, said Bohli. “It allows us to continue to do work in many of the same communities. (There’s) more rural poverty,” he said. 

As high schoolers head off to college, the office is working with an organization called the Newman Project to connect the young Catholics with their college campus ministry. “For example, O’Connell could submit a list of all their graduating students and where they’re going, and the Newman Connection plugs them in with the campus ministries at those colleges,” Bohli said. Campus ministries can then log on to the site and directly contact the students about Mass times and upcoming activities. “College students need to be connected within the first week of school, otherwise it’s very difficult to ever get them connected,” said Bohli. 

The bigger colleges in the diocese such as the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg and George Mason University in Fairfax already have large, well-established campus ministries. But Bohli also hopes to foster fledging Catholic clubs at community colleges. Bishop Burbidge is scheduled to have lunch with students at the Northern Virginia Community College’s Annandale campus Sept. 28. Bohli hopes to establish a weekly Sunday Mass at Shenandoah University in Winchester. 

More young adult groups are forming in parishes, as well as organizing a growing number of Theology of Tap talks, most recently in Manassas and Sterling. Soon there may be one in Front Royal, said Bohli. He also hopes to launch a monthslong missionary discipleship program for interested young adults. 

Forty-five youths, young adults and adults will travel to Panama for World Youth Day in late January.

 Usually, the number of participants from the diocese is in the hundreds, but the time of year makes it difficult for students to get away, said Christine Najarian, assistant director. She thinks their group is one of the largest groups from the U.S., with participants from all over the diocese, including from St. Joseph Church in Alexandria and Fort Belvoir. 

As with all World Youth Days, the pilgrimage contingent met ahead of time to discuss logistics as well as to prepare spiritually. Many participated in carrying the World Youth Day Cross this August in Washington. The cross has traveled around the U.S., the Caribbean and Central America ahead of World Youth Day. 

Once they touch down, Arlingtonians will spend the first few days touring — seeing the rain forest, visiting Monkey Island and riding on an aerial tram, said Najarian. Once the event begins, they’ll attend catechetical sessions, concerts, adoration and festivals before the papal Mass on the final day. 

“The focus is the cross. You leave home and you come back a different person,” said Bohli. “It’s the whole process of going and coming back — you grow in faith. It’s not just a vacation to go see the pope. The whole experience is meant to be a pilgrimage of faith.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018