Consider “Jubilee” as we Venture out after the COVID-19 Quarantine
As the world prepared to move from the 1900s to the 2000s two decades ago, there was a good bit of fear due to the “Y2K” which was the very real problem of computer systems programmed with dates only up to December 31, 1999. This meant that all systems run on computers could shut down. Luckily, computer programmers got to work, and the “crash” was avoided.
The Catholic Church wanted to focus on more positive and uplifting thoughts. Pope John Paul II designated a process for prayer, learning and service leading up to 2000, with themes for the three years leading up to it:
1997 – Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today
1998 – The Holy Spirit
1999 – God the Father
Then the year 2000 was a Great Jubilee year, a Holy Year, which had the theme: OPEN WIDE THE DOOR TO CHRIST: Evangelize, Reconcile, Celebrate!
As a young adult at the time, it was typical to move around every couple of years, so preparations for these years was done while I worked in the Diocese of Cleveland Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry/CYO, then was carried out in my work for the Diocese of St. Augustine Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, then I celebrated the Jubilee year in the Archdiocese of Atlanta Office of Young Adult Ministry at a huge Eucharistic Congress which included tracks for children, middle school, high school, young adults, Spanish language, and general sessions, along with a large celebration of the Eucharist in the Georgia World Center (and event that has continued until this year, canceled by COVID-19, by the way.)
All of these dioceses (and numerous others, including the Diocese of Youngstown) added sessions during the preparation years and Jubilee year – more formation programs, more events, more parish missions, more special Masses, more prayer experiences, and more and more…
Ironically, for a Jubilee year, based on the celebrations of our Jewish ancestors, was to take a time-out – they said for the land to lie fallow…
Take time to break from busyness,
spend time in silence…
take time to reflect…
take time for prayer….
take time with the Scriptures,
In order to prepare ourselves for the jubilee and to open the door to the new millennium, all of need to take a break from the “busyness” of contemporary life. Our home, work, and church lives are incredibly busy – typically marked by endless activities that provide little time for personal reflection or spiritual growth. Use the Jubilee as an opportunity to slow down… (“A Parish Guide to the Jubilee Year: Open Wide the Doors to Christ – Evangelize, Reconcile, Celebrate!” © 1999, Unites States Catholic Conference, Inc., page 35.)
Part of me would like to apologize for all the extra plans that I was part of planning 20 years ago that made Church busier and placed more expectations on the faithful to do more and more…. I was naïve and caught up in the excitement. There were many amazing programs and experiences, but it really did ramp up Church activities that never really slowed down.
I am grateful that during this horrible pandemic, I have finally taken to heart some of the words I heard during the preparations for the Great Jubilee 2000… and maybe I can help integrate them into 2020 vision (pun intended).
As the Jubilee focused on the transition from the 2nd to the 3rd Millennium…. We can now take time to transition from the hectic nature of pre-COVID-19 lifestyles to choosing to slow down a little post-pandemic….
Psalm 37 verse 7 tells us to “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.”
In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 11, verse 28: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
And as Jesus spent time with Martha and Mary, in Luke, chapter 10:
As they continued their journey, he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
I can easily find myself acting like Mary – focused on tasks that I perceive need to be done, but Jesus reminds us that spending time with him is the better part…. Tasks are important yet growing in faith is more so!
Tara Brach, a psychologist in New Jersey said: “Stepping out of the busyness, stopping our endless pursuit of getting somewhere else, is perhaps the most beautiful offering we can make to our spirit.”
So, how might we utilize some of the tools from the Holy Year of decades ago now?
The parish Guide for the Jubilee Year 2000 from which I quoted above, lists 9 Ways to Live Jubilee:
1. Pray daily – personal, Scripture, meditation, spiritual reading, and so on.
2. Practice forgiveness - examine your conscience and celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation when we are permitted again… also consider the people with whom you may need to reconcile relationship.
3. Celebrate the Eucharist – once the Churches open again, go when you can, but pray Spiritual Communion and really be attentive during Virtual Mass…. Actively participate!
4. Live a just life – are you familiar with our Catholic Social Teachings? If not, learn more about how we are called to live our faith in the world by how we treat other people, civic life, and the environment.
5. Help the poor – practice charitable acts as possible and work for community-based solutions for the causes of poverty and injustice.
6. Be a Domestic Church – we have had weeks now to work on Being Church at home… do not lose the good things that have come of that! Keep working on your family prayer and kindness towards each other!
7. Share faith – yes, we are called to Evangelize… The Psalmist proclaims (39:7), “My hope is in you (Lord),” and then we read in the book of Peter (3:15), “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” So, how has God been a source of hope for you? What is an important image of God for you and why? How have we seen God at work in our own lives? Share these insights with others, and you are evangelizing!
8. Join a small Christian community – this is perfect virtually and as we move into our limits of groups of 10, or even when we move to 20 or 50, that we can meet in small groups for faith sharing, Bible studies, discussion groups.
9. Know your faith – respond to the call to continue learning about our Triune God, our Church, our sacred Scripture, our Tradition, our Rituals, etc. Read, participate in webinars, take classes, and so on.
And I will add a 10th Way to live Jubilee now….
The 4 Major Basilicas around Rome - St. John Lateran, St. Peter's Basilica, Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, and Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore each have a ‘Holy Door” that is locked most of the time, but opened for special occasions like the Jubilee year… There are special prayer services for when the Holy Door is opened and then when it is locked again… while it is open, faithful make pilgrimages to walk through while praying.
During the year 2000, every diocesan Cathedral and other designated Churches dedicated special doors for local pilgrimage.
While for different reasons, all our Churches had their doors locked for the safety of the community during the pandemic, but soon they will re-open… and I’d invite you to treat the door you enter as a Holy Door… go slowly and prayerfully, thanking God for his presence outside and inside the Church building, outside and inside our hearts… make being back in a Church for Mass or Reconciliation or prayer time a special moment of Jubilee!
So, as many people keep saying they are eager to get back to normal, I want to encourage you to avoid the pre-pandemic normal… do not allow your calendar to become packed full again…. Parents, this is a chance to reconsider running your kids in a million directions for sports, dance, martial arts, etc. or even just over-scheduling yourself.
Ease back into life, reflect on what is most important to you and take the keys from the 2000 Great Jubilee to make a spiritual pilgrimage to a time of slowing down, focusing on Christ, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father as to Open Wide the Doors of our faith… And may the fruits of the Spirit become abundant in our lives as a result:
“the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control …” (Galatians 5:22).
Likely, you now a person or two (or twenty)
who were raised Catholic but that no longer practice the faith.
(After all, research now claims that "Nones" are 23.1% of the U.S. Population! Roman Catholics are 23%, per General Social Survey data analyzed by Ryan Burge of Eastern Illinois University. "Nones" are Americans who state they do not affiliate with any religious tradition,
i.e. on surveys when asked what religion they are,
they would check NONE.)
Some have been hurt by the Church...
others have just wandered away...
some may disagree with specific Catholic teaching....
others may have misunderstood (or been taught un-truths)….
many did not feel loved, needed, accepted by or like they belonged to a parish....
others say they just don't have time...
and I am sure there are many more reasons.
Have any of these folks asked you why you are still Catholic?
Or, have you ever just shared (in a loving, caring conversation),
why being Catholic is important to you?
While it may not change their minds at the moment,
or it may start a discussion (hopefully, not an argument),
it might make them think....
It is possible that no one ever talked about why the faith
is important to them and how being Catholic impacts
So, WHY ARE YOU CATHOLIC?
What do you like most about being Catholic?
Your response should be shared with the youth
(and the families)
with whom you serve.
Hearing the answers from others will help the
teens to formulate their own answers.
Take some time to thing about it and pray about.
Also consider who your answer may have changed over time.
If you need any inspiration, below, you can find what the 2019 Eagle of the Cross Recipients said when asked why they like about being Catholic. A few of these high school juniors and seniors are VERY insightful! (Others affirm many of the things we do in our youth ministries and parish life!)
What Eagle of the Cross 2019 Recipients Like about being Catholic:
How Christian do you think your town/city/community is?
Many news stories in the past several years have addressed the "Rise of the Nones" as they say, that is the growing number of people that indicate in surveys or interviews that their religious affiliation is NONE (as opposed to Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, etc.) For decades, there have been concerns about atheists and agnostics. How many times have you seen such articles or new stories?
And, when you have seen those articles, how many times have you thought, "Oh, that is too bad, but I am glad that isn't around here?"
Not to be a Debbie-Downer, but yesterday (June 5th) Barna Research shared information entitled: The Most Post-Christian Cities in America: 2019
The good news:
Communities in the Diocese of Youngstown did were NOT listed in the Top Ten.
The bad news:
Youngstown-Warren came in at #63, and
Cleveland-Akron-Canton came in at #67.
As for other cities around us in the Top One Hundred List, we have:
28. Detroit, MI
35. Toledo, OH
36. Pittsburgh, PA
59. Columbus, OH
70. Dayton, OH
71. Cincinnati, OH
Keep in mind that this is surveying all people, of all backgrounds,
not Roman Catholic specifically, but this is the like the air we breathe,
it is all around us, and does include Catholics.
The factors considered were:
To qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals had to meet nine or more of the following factors.
Highly post-Christian” individuals meet 13 or more of the factors (out of these 16 criteria).
How would you rate using this list?
Parents, how might you address some of these with your family?
I see great possibilities in:
reading the Bible together,
sharing stories of the importance of your faith/God/prayer/Church participation,
and how Jesus is part of your daily life!
College students and young adults with roommates, many of the suggestions for parents above can easily be done with your dorm-mates or roommates and groups of friends.
Side note: in the Catholic tradition, we don't usually say we are "Born Again,"
however, we were at our Baptism...
we continue to each time we say Amen and receive Communion,
and we do every morning that we dedicate our day to God.
"Sunday school" and "Small groups" may not be terms you are used to either.
But are you involved with continuing education sessions,
participate in your parish mission,
go to speaker sessions,
take Catechist Certification courses (including the Youth Ministry Online Trainings),
go to Bible studies,
take part in Ladies Guild, Knights of Columbus, Women's Group, Men's Fellowship,
or participate in Faith Formation programs?
Then, there you go!
Do not let this study get your depressed,
instead, use it as an incentive to find ways to more obviously live your faith.
Remember that old song, "They will know we are Christians by our love"?
Share God's love by doing acts of love every day.
Then, next time Barna does this research, maybe Youngstown, Warren, Canton
and the rest of the diocese will be lower on the list
as we promote Christian living
in our schools,
places or work,
areas of service,
and everywhere we go!
To read the Barna article references, please visit:
To read more about the "nones" from Pew Research, visit:
Recall the words of St. Teresa of Avila:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
Ahhhh, as Memorial Day weekend nears,
I can hear the sighs of relief from many
parish ministers, teachers, and families
as another school year concludes.
Another sprint through the winter and spring
are almost complete, and we are celebrating:
longer and warmer days....
graduations from everything from pre-schools through advanced college degrees...
Sacramental Celebrations, especially Confirmations and First Holy Communions...
perhaps Weddings and vacations as well....
"end of the year" retreats, parties and field trips...
the closing of the 75th Anniversary of the Diocese...
In any event, there seems no lack of JOY at this time of the year!
WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY?
Really, take a moment to reflect on the question....
sure, jot down the first things that come to your mind,
but then consider if they bring laughter, satisfaction, warm-fuzzies,
or true joy?
Dig deeper.... what truly fills your heart with joy?
Beginning this Friday and running throughout the summer,
the OY&YAM Facebook page/Twitter feed will have posts
from the 2019 Eagle of the Cross Recipients on what brings them joy.
Perhaps, as no surprise, the most repeated answer involved family and friends.
However, service and helping others ran a close second!
Thank you, Coordinators for Youth Ministries for making opportunities
for service and mission work possible as to help bring joy to those serving
as well as those being served.
My point of posting these insights is to help prompt thoughts of joy in all
who will read them... and hope the readers will then share joy to those around them.
Here is the full list, in no particular order (just as I typed them flipping through the
Eagle of the Cross response forms). Possibly, the list will bring you some joy,
and help you tap into the deep joy in your heart,
so that we can continue to be "an Easter people" claiming "Alleluia is our song"
as St. John Paul II said, long after this Easter season has ended.
And as Pope Francis reminds us, "If we live the faith in our daily life,
then our work too becomes a chance to spread the joy of being a Christian."
Please, keep spreading joy in your daily life of faith!
2019 Eagle of the Cross Recipients Joys:
"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)
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!
Have you noticed that we have a big election coming up soon?
(Yes, that was sarcasm as I am not sure how any American can be unaware even if he/she avoids TV, radio, and social media.)
Hopefully, you are also aware that the Diocese of Youngstown* is sponsoring two sessions on Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. Perhaps you have already even registered for the free event (please do so we can have adequate materials prepared for the afternoon and evening sessions.)
As a young adult, perhaps you have not yet voted, or you never heard that the Catholic Church has suggestions on how we can try to balance our beliefs with our civic duty.
"In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue,
and participation in political life is a moral obligation,"
according to the U.S. Catholic bishops
(Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, No. 13).
First of all, please know that Faithful Citizenship is NOT a sample ballot with boxes checked off for the candidates for whom you should vote. No, these are guidelines for your consideration, deep reflection and prayer. Recall that Jesus often taught in parables which elicited the same needs for thought before a decision could be made. It is not easy.... but it is worth the effort.
If you are unable to participate in one of the September 21st sessions referenced above,
please know that there are online resources to support your journey.
A few pages to note include:
Read and reflect upon the bulletin inserts (if your parish does not use them, you can download your own!)
There are two that summarize the U.S. Bishops' document,
one instructing on how to communicate with your elected officials, and
a couple backgrounders like this one on Civil Dialogue:
You can watch a video to learn more about the Bishops' document:
(also available in Spanish, as are many of the written resources!)
Questions to discuss over coffee (or other beverage of your choice):
Ideas for parish young adult ministries and collaboratives:
Session plans for adult faith formation/small Christian communities:
You can pray for others around the country during the Novena --
listen to the podcasts or read the text:
And this is the website for even more resources to assist you form youth conscience as a faithful citizen:
May God bless your journey.
For the people of the United States,
that we may be united in building a society in which everyone can have
the opportunity to live with dignity and hope, we pray to the Lord.
*September 21st events sponsored by The Catholic Diocese of Youngstown Offices of:
Continuing Education for Priests,
Lay Ministry Formation,
Pro-Life, Marriage and Family,
& Youth and Young Adult Ministry
Hopefully, you are all aware of the two sessions being offered by the diocese* regarding "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship" on September 21, 2016, and hopefully you will all do your best to participate in one of the sessions....
However, it seems unlikely that many teens will attend, especially since many cannot yet vote. However, during middle school and high school there should be discussions had and prayers prayed. Teens see and hear the mainstream media and the social media and are concerned for their futures. Why not help them learn ways to infuse their faith with their patriotism and civic duties?
The U.S. Bishop's website features session plans prepared especially for middle school and high school audiences (parish and school settings). There are 4 session plans, and they can be adapted to fit your needs. Each session covers a section of the document, so they can easily be used for inter-generational/family faith/Generations of Faith sessions as well (you can find elementary session plans posted as well!)
Be sure to check them out and bookmark the site.
Perhaps your group is interested in devotionals?
Then be sure to check out the Novena for Faithful Citizenship as well:
(Read or listen to podcasts!)
The Bulletin Inserts are also created for discussion...
if your parish distributes these, then by all means, make use of them with your teens! If your parish does not use them, you can download them. There are two that summarize the Forming Consciences document, one that instructs on communicating with elected officials, that these two that might be of even more interest:
> Conscience Formation:
> Civil Dialogue:
Have fun exploring the many resources,
and be sure to continue praying for our country
and pray for all elected officials and for all voters!
Here is part of a middle school/high school session prayer,
which seems perfect to pray together now:
Let us pray.
Father of all creation,
You made humanity in your image and likeness.
May we see Jesus' face in those who are hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, and stranger.
Spirit of justice, help us and all your people to seek respect for the dignity of all people
and work to protect the common good.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
* Sponsored by The Catholic Diocese of Youngstown Offices of:
Continuing Education for Priests,
Lay Ministry Formation,
Pro-Life, Marriage and Family,
& Youth and Young Adult Ministry
Recently, a colleague shared the following Youth Night Outline with me and asked if it could be used at his parish. I told him, yes.... just line up objectives from the The Diocese of Youngstown Curriculum for Catechesis.
Using Scripture with Lectio Divina processing and praying the Apostle's Creed area always good things to do with youth!
With just a quick glance, I thought that the following objectives that could be covered within the session with a few tweaks:
After watching the video, you could also include
Look it over and tell me which other objectives you might include?
What would you do differently to make this session work better for the teens in your ministry setting? (Please use the COMMENT button to add your thoughts and ideas.)
Youth Night Acts of the Apostles
Purpose of the Night
This youth night is designed to give the teens a better knowledge and understanding of the Acts of the Apostles. Our Church is built upon the witness of these very first apostles and we can learn a lot from them. We can obviously learn about the development of church teaching, but more importantly, we can learn how to apply their witness into the witness of our lives.
Bible for each small group
Paper and pencils for each small group
Random items (see below in Preparation)
The environment for this night should depict the importance of witnessing, both by the apostles and saints, but also modern day witnesses. Display pictures around the room of apostles and saints. Also, include some signs with Scripture verses and quotes pertaining to witnessing. Also put up some pictures of witnesses today. These can be well known people, or simply just individuals in our everyday lives. At the front of the room, place an open Bible on a table and large cross with red cloth draped over it symbolizing the blood of the martyrs.
Snacks/fellowship time (20 minutes)
Before diving into the topic, have snacks or even a meal available for the youth as they arrive. Play fun music while youth are coming in. Allow them time to socialize with their friends as well as to meet any new people. Be sure to have yourself as well as any core team mingle among the kids and reach out especially to anyone who may be new. This time would also be a good time for any announcements as well as announcing any birthdays.
Small Group Skits (20 minutes)
Divide the youth into small groups. Gather a bunch of really random items and place the items at the front of the room. Examples of items can include stuffed animals, a role of tape, a golf club, or a coffee filter. Have a representative from each group select three items. Each group will act out the story of Pentecost found in Acts 2:1-4. They will have to incorporate their three items in some way in the skit. Also, each group will act out their skit in a different genre. Genres can include documentary, western, sci-fi, silent film, sitcom, talk show, news broadcast, musical, etc. Write the genres down on separate pieces of paper and have the groups each select one at random. Give the groups about 10 minutes to create their skits and then gather them back to present them.
Introduction of the Topic (5 minutes)
Transition the youth into the main space to begin the night. The youth minister will begin by introducing the topic of the Acts of the Apostles. Explain briefly the importance of the early apostles and their witness in the early church.
Proclamation verse: “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8
Opening Prayer (5 minutes)
Reading (Acts 1:6-9)
A Reading from the Acts of the Apostles When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
Heavenly Father, We come before you this day in thanksgiving for the witness of the early Apostles. Lord, come into our hearts during this time that we might be inspired by their witness to live for you in our everyday lives. We ask this in your name. Amen.
(Optional) If you have a musician who can begin the night with a praise and worship song, that could be used as the opening prayer
Explanation Video: “Evidence” (5 minutes)
(This video can be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPHe51B7Z00)
Teaching (10-15 minutes)
Choose a speaker to talk to your group about this topic and its importance in our lives. The speaker can be the youth minister, a core member, a parish priest or deacon, a guest speaker, or anyone who you feel may be qualified to speak on the topic. You can use the outline below to provide some thoughts for this talk.
Processing the video:
The importance of being a witness
- When watching this video, how did it make you feel? What was going through your head as this girl was on trial and what were your thoughts on the verdict? Can you relate to the video at all?
- Now obviously, it is not illegal to be Catholic in our country today. However, there are a number of obstacles that we face in our everyday lives that make it difficult to witness to our faith.
The witness of the Apostles
- In Acts 1:8, just before Jesus ascends to heaven, He stood before His apostles and said “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus makes a promise to His Apostles that they will receive the Holy Spirit and will become witnesses to the faith.
- In Acts 2:1-4, we read of the event of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit comes upon the Apostles and inspires them to fearlessly go out and proclaim Christ to the world. The Acts of the Apostles gives us a glimpse into the mission of the apostles following in the footsteps of Christ.
- We hear a number of miraculous occurrences such as the conversion of 3000 people by the apostles right after Pentecost (Acts 2), Peter healing to crippled man (Acts 3), Philip converting the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8), Paul restoring a dead man to life (Acts 20), as well as so many more things. On top of this, we also hear of so many stories of heroic virtue as the apostles stopped at no cost to follow the will of Christ which eventually lead to martyrdom for most.
Our own witness in our lives
- In our own lives, we can learn a lot from the apostles and can apply much of what they said and did in our very own life. It’s hard to be a witness. It’s hard to publicly stand up and follow Christ fully in the midst of everything that goes on. Often times, we can feel like we are on trial, just like in the video.
- However, Christ has commissioned us just as He commissioned His disciples. He speaks those same words to us that we find in Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Lord is with us and He freely gives us His Holy Spirit to inspire us to carry out His will. Let us not be afraid to listen to Him and witness to Him in our lives.
Small Groups (15-20 minutes)
Lectio Divina Each person in the group will receive a slip of paper with the Scripture passage below on it and a pencil. The group leader or one of the youths should read the passage aloud. Take about 30 seconds to silently think about it. Have it read again. Take about a minute to silently meditate upon it and encourage the group take notes or underline key words that might stick out. Have it read one final time and then begin to discuss.
Acts 1:6-8 – “When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Small Group Questions
o Was there a word or phrase from this passage that really stood out or jumped out to anyone?
o What is the meaning of this passage?
o What does Jesus mean when He says “you will be my witnesses”?
o How do His followers ultimately respond to that call of being a witness?
o In our lives, we all have the same call to go out and be witnesses in our everyday lives. What does it mean to witness to the faith?
o Jesus calls us to witness to our faith by leaving behind everything we have and spreading the gospel around the world. Some have taken this call quite literally and have become missionaries to foreign countries or other extreme callings. For those of us (the majority of Christians) who do not have this calling, how can we witness to the faith in everyday life?
o How can we be a witness in our school, on our sports teams, within our groups of friends, or within our families?
o Why is witnessing to the faith so important? What benefit is there for us?
o What are some practical ways in which we can witness to our faith today?
Teen Witness (5 minutes)
Gather the whole group back together and invite one of your youth, preferable an older one who is maybe a junior or a senior to share a brief personal witness on how their life has been impacted by the Lord and how they have been called to live out their faith. Meet with them ahead of time to go over their witness. While writing their witness, have them pray with Acts 1:8 to see how their own life can relate to that of the apostles.
Closing prayer (5 minutes)
If possible, transition the group into a separate space to close out the night. The ideal location would be in the church if available. Invite the youth to quietly make their way in and have a seat. The youth minister should take a minute to prayerfully recap the whole night. After the recap, take some time to enter into some silence and allow the youth to voice any intentions they have. Close with reciting the Apostles Creed:.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Creator of Heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God,
the Father almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
By the way, did you know that the Curriculum can be found online
(you do not only have to view it in the office of your pastor of Director/Coordinator of Religious Education! You can download a copy or just view it online whenever you wish.)
During the last workshop round at the 2015 National Catholic Youth Conference, I participated in a "What Now" session with teens and adults from the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
A pastor, youth minister and 4 youth shared their experience of the previous NCYC and how they took the energy and learnings back to their parish.
They then invited all participants to consider what they may do after leaving NCYC.... and invited them to select one of the following areas in which to focus:
What do I want to work on after NCYC?
- Improve prayer life
- Improve charitable actions
- Grow YM at parish
- Teach others about the faith
- Liturgical ministries
- Be more active in parish in general
- Overcome challenges in life
- Improve relationships
Teens gathered in small groups around each of these areas and brainstormed ways they can take action back home.
I thought this was a GREAT way to start bridging the experience with some practical ideas, and that while this was NCYC specific at the time, how it can easily be adapted for any large event. Consider it when you are busing back from the March for Life, or before leaving your retreat, or after attending the next Diocesan Youth Convention (DYC) or mission trip.
(It is also not too late to gather your NCYC participants, if you went, to do this activity... after spending a little time reminiscing about the General Sessions, Camp Techakwitha, Prayer rooms, and break-outs, then ask them how they would like to build upon the experience in the New Year!)
I have often seen that a "mountaintop experience" can have a tremendous impact on a young person. We may want to be like Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration who wanted to build a tent and stay there (Matthew 17).... but we must go back home and rejoin our 'regular' lives at school, work and with family and friends.
However, pulling from another chapter of Matthew's Gospel (13), the large events are opportunities to sow seeds. If the seeds of the experience are not nurtured and fed, they quickly die... we must help our young people tend to the seeds so that they can bear great fruit for the individual, but even for our faith communities!
"But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields a
hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” (Matthew 13: 23)
Cindee Case, MPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.