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Youth ministers face uncertain year with hope

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A dove carrying an olive branch was a sign to Noah that after the flood, God had prepared dry land for him and his family. A dove carrying an olive branch is the logo that accompanies this year’s theme for youth ministry: “Abound in hope.”


“Trying to bring young people to Christ at a time where we don’t even know what’s that going to look like is very difficult,” said Kevin Bohli, executive director of the diocesan Office of Youth, Campus and Young Adult Ministries. “(But) we are a church of hope.”

Directors of youth ministry and parish volunteers gathered for the DYM Summit to kick off the new year at St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Clifton Aug. 19. Father Jamie R. Workman, vicar general, celebrated Mass for the more than 50 attendees. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge addressed the group outdoors later that morning. 

“I think it’s wonderful that you’re together and it’s my hope that your day here is the reminder that in challenging times, we are not alone. God is with us and we are here for each other,” he said. “We’re meant to help each other carry our burdens and to support and encourage each other.”

As with many youth ministers, Rob Tessier of All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas switched to virtual programing when the pandemic began. Though not ideal, he learned that being online was a better way to reach some people.

 “I got an email out of the blue from a mom who said she just happened to watch virtual Mass on TV. She had not been in a Catholic church for years and something kind of hit her that she needed to return to the church,” said Tessier. He helped the woman’s daughter join the parish youth group, and the mom and daughter have been active in the parish since. “It’s a beautiful silver lining,” he said. 

This fall, he plans to make part of their in-person weekly youth group gatherings accessible to online participants, in addition to offering exclusively online programing such as a lunch bunch. “We’re going to continue to do virtual because the access is greater,” he said. “A kid doesn’t need to get a ride to the church to attend something.”

Most of the 25-35 teens who attend youth group at St. Francis de Sales Church in Purcellville tuned into the virtual programing in the spring, said Emily Glass, director of youth ministry at the parish. But as the months wore on, fewer have joined. So, she’s eager to begin in-person programing after Labor Day. 

“(We’ll be) outside when possible or spread out in the gym. Any way to get them together safely,” she said. “We have high hopes and we’re going to stay hopeful that whatever happens, the Lord will work through it.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020