What do young people really ask of the Church in your diocese today?
In asking high school and young adult youth directly what they would like the Church to offer them, the overwhelming response was that they want more!
The most common response was for more activities to help them grow in their faith (23), including opportunities to learn about aspects of the faith or to experience retreats. An equally occurring response was for more activities of fellowship and fun (23).
Related was the call for true community, with the call for groups that are supportive, honest, accepting, and relatable (16).
Fourteen youth mentioned Mass in what they want the Church to offer.
However, the specific comments about Mass were divergent.
Nine suggested making Mass more engaging in general, or specifically through music or participation in liturgical ministries.
There were also 3 suggestions for a separate Mass for young people.
Two young people suggested more solemn and reverent Mass.
Ten youth suggested allowing for more input and suggestions from youth as well as youth leadership.
Responses also indicated service opportunities (8) and opportunities to learn about vocations (3).
The surveys also included an open ended question about what they would like to share with Pope Francis. Suggestions for Pope Francis included:
Considering this quick snapshot of what some teens and young adults
are asking of the Church in the Diocese of Youngstown,
what AFFIRMS your ministry efforts?
What challenges you?
Summary of the Synod Process
In November, Cardinal DiNardo shared the following summary of the Synod process on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.” This was presented to his brother bishops at their general assembly meeting based on the work and findings that had been conducted over the last few months.
This video was shared on the World Youth Day USA Facebook page.
Please take a few minutes to watch/listen to the video. It is about nine minutes long. There was some great information garnered from the work many of you did.
What kinds and places
of group gatherings of youth,
institutionalized or otherwise,
have a major success
within the Church, and why?
Fortunately, in some parishes/schools, the effort to promote youth and young adult programs within the Church has seen some success in reaching out to young people, such as:
What kinds and places of group gatherings of youth, institutionalized or otherwise, have a major success outside the Church, and why?
Generally speaking, the survey indicates that the way young people are best engaged are through sports (26) and music (22), which both received a significant number of responses.
Social media and technology was also often mentioned as successful at reaching youth (14).
The arts were also mentioned, as well as general school activities, teachers, and coaches.
Many youth reported on attributes of groups that had success, such as being
accepting and welcoming, relating to teens and personally connect with them,
and fostering a sense of community among young adults.
How do these findings affirm your current ministries?
How do these findings challenge you?
Active planning began in March 2017 (although we began setting the stage, so to speak, in November 2016 at the Diocesan Youth Convention).... MANY pieces of paperwork have needed completed, copies, filed and sent in.... Fundraisers and budgeting had to take place since I will admit this isn't a cheap pilgrimage... and meetings have been held to prepare. So, why do it? We know it makes an impact on the faith-lives of so many pilgrims!
I'll share responses next month from the high school teens that will be participating this week in the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) in Indianapolis, Indiana, but know that many parishes have witnessed to the enthusiasm, energy and increased faith in past pilgrims that have been brought back to the parish and school communities making it all worth the work.
One group leader flat out admitted that they are taking a group to this NCYC because the teens demanded it after having a great experience in 2015! To that end, these parishes are "repeat" groups participating:
Holy Spirit Uniontown
Holy Trinity, East Liverpool
Little Flower, Middlebranch
St. Brendan, Youngstown
St. Charles, Boardman
St. James, Waynesburg
St. John the Evangelist, Summitsville
St. John School/Assumption Parish
St. Joseph Calasanctius
St. Joseph, Canton
St. Joseph, Massillon
St. Jude/Our Lady of Lourdes
St. Mary, Orwell
Returning after a few years hiatus:
St. Patrick, Youngstown
And we are excited for the following new parish groups:
St. Andrew Bobolo
St. Joan of Arc, Streetsboro
Here are the reasons that adult chaperones listed as hopes for the NCYC or things for which they are looking forward to the NCYC:
What 2017 Chaperones are looking forward to/ hoping for from this conference:
► Saturday evening Mass
► Teens experiencing the whole event with 25,000
► The faces of awe and revelation on our young people that repeats many times during those days
► The excitement that will be brought back to our Church
► Seeing the enthusiasm of the flock, especially the 2 disciples I am accompanying
► Watching how my teenagers are transformed
► That young people will leave NCYV with a better idea of their relationship to Church and that Christ is special to each of us.
► Teens’ enthusiasm
► That the students fill their hearts with joy and understand who Christ is
► The kids experiencing the different liturgical experiences. Also to see how the students can bring back all the wonderful information to the parishes and schools.
► Spending time outside the classroom with the students sharing in a spiritual experience.
► The community and the fellowship
► Teens grow closer together and closer to Christ.
► That the kids will grow in their faith of the Lord and be shown how to live more like Jesus. Clarity of faith.
► A renewed sense of purpose in this faith as we are “called”
► The learn more and grow closer to God.
► To be strengthened in their love for God
► Our group will grow closer, building stronger relationships and continue in Church more involved.
► To share my experience of faith and encourage the young Church!
► HOPE! (Hear and see the enthusiasm, Open to others, Pray together and Enjoy and return)
► That the new kids going this year have a great experience and come back home and participate more at Mass and service projects. And to be examples to the adults in our Church.
► Life-changing event for newbies – become more secure in their faith
► That everyone has safe travels, an inspiring experience, and a willingness to be positive influences in the community
► That my daughter receives the blessings of the experience and we can experience out faith together.
► Our teens return from NCYC excited even more about their faith – feeling loves by God.
► That the teens (and adults) have a deeper appreciation for the love that God has for them each and that it fills their hearts so much that they have to share it, thus building up our diocesan Church by their witness, example and service!
► For the youth to leave on fire for our Lord and to go out and share the Good News!
► I hope this experience will be transformative for each teen and adult participant; that it will spark a renewal of faith in the Church.
► I hope I come home with all the kids that I am taking ;-)
Please pray that ALL of these come true,
and that the diocese will be renewed by the spirit of these 135 pilgrims!
"And the Survey Says..."
Insights from the Diocesan Synod Surveys
At the 2017 Ministry Day workshop with Fr. Chris Luoni and Cindee Case, we discussed some of what we learned through the input of nearly 500 teens, young adults, parents and Church leaders in preparing for the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops focused on "Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment."
We laid it out as a bit of a game show, inviting attendees to guess at the responses of the high school teens, young adults (20s and 30s) and sometimes parents/family members of the youth and young adults on a few key questions. The results surprised a few folks.... but do keep in mind that the surveys were completed voluntarily for the most part (a Catholic school religion teacher may not have given an option, and perhaps a few parents may have insisted, but it is mostly from volunteers.) Responses also came primarily from people who are very or somewhat connected to a Catholic parish or school, but I was pleased with some very honest responses on what that connection may mean for the individual.
In any event, why not test yourself? Let me know if the comment section how you did, what you thought, or how a survey result might impact your ministry.
And come back to this blog page for more updates throughout the year.
The Powerpoint presentation is attached below (large file) and has been posted online for quick viewing at: (Click on link address or black button)
Youngstown Synod Survey Insights, Part 2
What are the main challenges and most significant opportunities for young people in our Diocese today?
The challenges that young people face are many and varied. The most common challenges in general listed were social pressures, such as negative peer pressure (40), bullying (12), and anxiety (12), especially around subjects such as drugs and alcohol (33) and human sexuality (8). School was also listed as a common challenge (10). These responses were concentrated among the high school age youth.
For those in their late teens and 20s, the challenges shifted more so to challenges of finances (12), not being recognized as adults (9), jobs (5), relationships (5), lack of community (4) and finding one’s path in the world.
In the Church context, a lack of faith was cited most often as challenge to staying connected (23). Specific issues with the Church included that it was boring and non-engaging (26), more so for the high school teens, a lack of connection or belief in God (17), and the perception that the Church was too strict (16). Lack of support from parents and leaders contributed to this disconnect for many, as well not feeling part of the community. When stating why young people drift away from Church, a sizeable portion listed the parents’ lack of faith and practice (13), while many did not feel engaged or an important part of the community for Mass.
For the opportunities, the survey focused on the question of how young people are active in their parish. For those that took the survey, there were about 15 that indicated they were not active. The vast majority reported being active in at least some way, and many listed several ways they were involved. The most reported activities were:
· Liturgical ministries (65), such as altar serving, choir/music ministry, Extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, lector;
· Volunteer and service (40), including parish volunteering and mission trips;
· Youth ministry programs and retreats (26);
· Catechetical roles (11).
Editor's note: I am excited to see that such a great number of young people who are engaged in the various ministries of the Church took time to complete the Synod Surveys. There were also a good number (about 8%) who completed the survey stating they were Catholic but not involved; they helped give insights though on challenges (which we in ministry know we can work to convert to opportunities!) Personal invitation remains key for our ministries, so be sure to continue to be on the look out for talents of interests of teens and young adults then connect them to ways to utilize those within our faith communities!
I attended Catholic school from mid-first grade through my freshmen year of high school
(St. Joseph in Cuyahoga Falls and St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron).
I cannot recall in which year
we had to memorize the Memorare, but I know that it was in grade school and
to this day, when someone begins the prayer,
my mind automatically continues on as the words are etched in my mind (perhaps even my heart, as that makes for a better prayer.)
While memorization is difficult for many (at least for me),
I do have to admit that it is nice to have some things ready to recite
at a moments notice! I have been able to pray the Memorare
(and MANY other prayers) in times of stress, anxiety, uncertainty
and even boredom.
Of course, as with many things in life, I will admit that I did not understand the prayer when I memorized it. Besides not knowing what implored or incarnate meant, as a child, I was fortunate to now have much need to "Fly" to her. However, as I lived a few more years,
I experienced more need for a feeling of protection,
I now wish that I'd had an opportunity to re-learn the prayer as a teen, with focus on a deeper understanding of what we were praying.,
Of remembering the need for God in my life,
and the gift of having Mary to pray with and for me to her Son.
Truly understanding that she will not give up on her children,
and will help us really can boost our "confidence" of faith!
With October being a month dedicated to Mary,
what is YOUR favorite Marian prayer?
(You can list it in the Comments section below.)
Seek ways to break this prayer open with the
teens and/or young adults with whom you serve.
Dig for that deeper understanding of memorized prayers
(and maybe even learn a new one!)
While you consider this,
why not pray the Memorare with me?
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that anyone who fled to your protection,
implored your help,
and sought your intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence,
I fly to you,
O Virgin of virgins, my Mother,
to you I come,
before you I stand sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate!
Despise not my petitions,
but, in your mercy, hear and answer me.
(Diocese of Youngstown Synod Surveys Summary, Part 1)
The Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry of the Diocese of Youngstown created six distinct but related online surveys to gather information for the Synod as well as additional information to help guide the work of our local ministries. The surveys were intended for the following audiences (with the number of respondents for each category in parentheses):
· Catholic Youth of High School Age (123)
· Non-Catholic Youth of High School Age (7)
· Catholic Young Adults (101)
· Non-Catholic Young Adults (5)
· Parents/Families (170)
· Staff at parishes and schools (73)
The office sent the Preparatory Document with survey instructions to each pastor and Catholic High School Principal, emailed the survey links to contacts for youth ministry and directly to young adults, and used social media (primarily Facebook and Twitter) to publicize the surveys. The surveys were posted on the Diocesan website for three months over the summer. A total of 479 people responded to the surveys. In addition, seventeen people participated in listening sessions at their parish, for a total of 496 people providing input.
In addition to the input from these surveys, the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry and the Office of Vocations provided answers for some of the questions.
In an effort to highlight the direct experience of youth, these surveys were filtered to only include youth who are 16 to 29 years old, as defined by the Preparatory Document on page 8. A total of 155 responses were in this age range, consisting of 94 High School Youth and 61 Young Adults. The numbers throughout indicate direct responses. If people gave multiple responses to one question, their input was counted for each category of their response.
Synod Question 1:
In what manner does the Church listen to the lived situations of young people?
Unfortunately, a significant number of responses were negative, either that they were not aware of how the Church was listening or that the Church was not listening This was the case for 44 parents/families as well as 15 staff at parishes and schools.
A common positive response was there was youth ministry at the parish or listed some youth ministry activities (45), although few of these responses specifically mentioned listening to teens. There were ten responses of youth active in liturgical roles, but again not tied specifically to listening to youth. Eight responses included the participation of youth on Parish Council, which would imply listening to youth as one aspect.
Forty-one responses focused on a person that was working directly with the youth – youth minister, CCD teacher, priest, or other caring adults. In the building of relationships, key adults are able to connect with the youth on a personal level and listen to their concerns. Significantly, eleven people cited the pastor or priest as someone who listens to youth. Many people responded that the leadership of the parish was an important factor for assessing whether or not they felt the parish listened to youth.
In response to a question about what the Church should do for young people, ten youth stated that the Church should do a better job of listening to the input, suggestions, and opinions of young people. From the perspective of parents/families, staff at parishes and schools, and the youth themselves, the Church can do a better job of listening to the situation of young people. A sign of hope in this endeavor is the adults who are committed to ministry to young people, especially priests, youth ministers, CCD teachings and other caring adults.
Let us pause here to take a moment for prayer:
thank you for the gifts that young people bring to our Church -
We ask that you help all adults in the Church to take more time to listen to the youth, and pro-actively invite them to opportunities for engagement and discipleship.
We also thank you for the priests, youth ministers, campus ministers, catechists, mentors, coaches, and other caring adults who have taken the time to listen to and reach out to the young people. May they continue to do so and to inspire others to follow their example.
We ask all this in your holy name, amen!
At the Convocation of Catholic Leaders (July 1-4, 2017 in Orlando), I was honored to be one of the five delegates from the Diocese of Youngstown. The event included break- out sessions, one being "Youth on the Margins: Understanding Those Struggling with Depression, Suicide, Gangs and Discrimination." Obviously, the panel of speakers addressed each of those areas. They also discussed the opioid epidemic and how some of the heroin sold these days is immediately addicting. There is also an increase in reported anxiety issues with teens. It can be difficult to share the Joy of the Gospel (theme of the Convocation) when people are struggling to find joy in any area of their life!
In an interview with Antonio Spadaro SJ in August 2013,
Pope Francis said: “The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds."
As adults called to work with and for young people, we need to be available to assist as needed. In addition to just being available to LISTEN to a young person, here are a few suggestions:
1. Continue to pray for young people and their families, knowing that everyone is going through something or has a loved one that they worry about that is going through something. Pray that they have the strength they need to get through it and to rely on God.
A few Scriptures to consider in your prayer:
• “The Lord heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
• “But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, thus declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 30:17).
• “Come to me, all who are heavy burdened...” (Matthew 11:28)
• “The news about [Jesus] spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and he healed them” (Matthew 4:24).
2. Have a "Referral List" handy and updated.
To read more about how to create your list, see:
as well as an idea for helping parents connect for support:
3. Learn more about Pastoral Care so that you can better be of service. Once great option is called "Youth Mental Health First Aid." This is a quick course that covers the basics on identifying and working with youth who may experience anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders, suicidal tendencies, etc. It comes with a manual that you can keep on hand for reference over and over again. (Perhaps a good idea to reread a chapter each month as well as to have on hand as a certain situation arises.)
The diocese is looking into the possibility of hosting a training for parish ministers, but I also found that there is a FREE option offered by the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board. One training day is coming up on August 25th in Warren. The flyer can be found below. If you are unavailable that day, perhaps contact them for future dates.
What else might you add to this list?
Final thought, Pope Francis encourages us in taking the time necessary to journey with people as Church, "An evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be." (Evaneglii Gaudium #24)
"Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendor and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties." (Evaneglii Gaudium #167)
On Saturday, July 1
in the Hyatt Regency Orlando,
a couple thousand Catholics gathered for
an Evening Marian Devotion
focused around Mary, Mother of Evangelization
as part of the Convocation of Catholic Leaders
organized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Allow me to pause to say that despite my birthday falling on a Marian feast
(Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15),
and my name including a Marian-variation (Marie),
I have not found myself to have a strong Marian devotion.
Not that I have anything against this amazing woman who said YES to God,
gave birth to our Savior and raised Jesus;
I was just raised to believe that I can go directly to Christ with my prayers.
So I didn't "need" Mary as much.
Please do not judge me harshly as I share this only to admit that I may have considered
skipping this Saturday night event....
but I did go,
and I was so glad that I did.
It was a highlight of the Convocation for me.
I left inspired and faith-filled.
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS of San Antonio and
Bishop Martin D. Holley, DD of Memphis
each shared their appreciation for and strong devotions to Mary that began during their childhoods,
nurtured them as they grew up and how she assist them now as they serve the Church.
They also discussed that Mary is called upon by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium:
"Mary let herself be guided by the Holy Spirit on a journey of faith toward a destiny of service and fruitfulness. Today we look to her and ask her to help us proclaim the message of salvation to all and to enable new disciples to become evangelizers in turn." ~ EG, no. 287.
We then prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary,
with an amazing couple of twists:
1. a myriad of languages were used to pray the Hail Mary, including English, French, Vietnamese, Igbo, Tagalog, Italian, Creole, Polish, Gaelic/Irish, and Spanish;
2. different styles of songs that connected to each Mystery were sung at the completion of each decade ("The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came," "Mary's Canticle," "What Child is This," "Mary's Song," and "El Perpetuo Socorro," along with "Immaculate Mary" at the end.)
The changing up of languages during the Hail Mary really made one pause and listen to the words,
rather than speeding through it as can happen in some recitations that I have been part of (and even led that way, as though there is a prize for finishing fastest!) and the songs assisted me in reflecting upon that Mystery.
All the while, different images of Mary were displayed on large screens in the room.
This helped to show the various ways in which people relate to the Holy Mother around the world,
and in the U.S.
Together, we prayed through the songs, prayers and images.
It was an inspiring and up-lifting evening that I wished you could have all been part of with us.
However, you can participate in spirit in the following ways:
1. Watch recordings of some parts of the evening devotion:
Part 1 (bishop's talks, Ave Maria)
Part 2 (praying the Rosary)
2. Pray the Special Prayer of Dedication to Mary taken from Evangelii Gaudium:
Mary, Virgin and Mother,
you who, moved by the Holy Spirit,
welcomed the word of life
in the depths of your humble faith:
as you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One,
help us to say our own “yes”
to the urgent call, as pressing as ever,
to proclaim the good news of Jesus.
Filled with Christ’s presence,
you brought joy to John the Baptist,
making him exult in the womb of his mother.
Brimming over with joy,
you sang of the great things done by God.
Standing at the foot of the cross
with unyielding faith,
you received the joyful comfort of the resurrection,
and joined the disciples in awaiting the Spirit
so that the evangelizing Church might be born.
Obtain for us now a new ardor born of the resurrection,
that we may bring to all the Gospel of life
which triumphs over death.
Give us a holy courage to seek new paths,
that the gift of unfading beauty
may reach every man and woman.
Virgin of listening and contemplation,
Mother of love, Bride of the eternal wedding feast,
pray for the Church, whose pure icon you are,
that she may never be closed in on herself
or lose her passion for establishing God’s kingdom.
Star of the new evangelization,
help us to bear radiant witness to communion,
service, ardent and generous faith,
justice and love of the poor,
that the joy of the Gospel
may reach to the ends of the earth,
illuminating even the fringes of our world.
Mother of the living Gospel,
wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones,
pray for us.
May Mary, Star of the New Evangelization and Patroness of the Americas continue to pray for us!
Cindee Case, MPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.