I attended my first and only NFCYM (National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry) Membership meeting in 2015. This annual meeting is a gathering of all diocesan leaders and youth ministry organizations in the United States. Every morning, we started with Mass and then went into a series of large and small meetings to work on projects, collaborate and discuss the direction of youth ministry in the United States.
After a week of this work, the organization gathered the newbies (like myself) together to get our positive and negative feedback on our week. I had one major complaint. There was no Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Not only was there no scheduled time for Adoration, but there was no tabernacle either. We had Mass every day, but a temporary tabernacle wasn’t provided and the Eucharist wasn’t available for people to take time for private prayer.
As a person who makes a Holy Hour every day of my work week, this was difficult to swallow. Overall, with the exception of daily Mass (something I would expect at a meeting like this one), there was very little communal prayer and no access to private time with the Eucharist. In my opinion, this was a pretty big oversight by the people who are supposed to be guiding the direction of youth ministry in the country.
Christ never asks the apostles to “lead.” He asks them to follow. Even when the apostles are given the responsibility of a person in a leadership position, they are asked to follow the movement of the Holy Spirit. Christ makes it abundantly clear what happens when we take our eyes off of Him. When He invites Peter out onto the water to walk with Him, Peter only begins to drown once he takes his eyes off Christ.
I have been working in youth ministry for over a decade. I have gone through phases of growth in that time. From the beginning of my time serving in this apostolate, I have been gifted with a lot of charisms and talents working with young people. At some point during my time working in ministry, I completely lost my prayer life and subsequently, lost my way. These were the times when the youth ministries that I ran appeared the strongest. But I was putting 110% of my time into the work of ministry and no time into prayer or my family (my primary vocation).
Wouldn’t you know it… those “strong” ministry efforts eventually fell apart. The ministry that I have developed that was sustainable came from the periods of my life where Holy Hour, Mass, daily Scripture reading and time with family were the most important parts of my day. I couldn’t always put in the quality of work that I wanted, but it didn’t matter. God’s grace more than made up for what was lacking.
I recently started working at Notre Dame Catholic Parish in Denver, CO. I’m directing their efforts to shift the focus of youth ministry onto the family and discipleship. It’s a big undertaking. My first request when I started working was for there to be access to an Adoration Chapel in or around my workspace. Not only did I wish to make Holy Hours everyday, I wanted to invite others to do the same in prayer for the ministry. With my wonderful pastor’s permission, we made a temporary chapel and now there is an intercessory team that takes an hour of prayer each week to pray for the growth of the ministry.
Jesus said to us, “without me you can do nothing,” and he told St. Paul, “my grace is sufficient for you.” It’s arrogance to believe that our efforts alone will build up the Kingdom. Rather, when we rely on grace (God’s very life within us), we are fruitful and build up the Kingdom.