’Young Life’ is evangelization opportunity for adults

Published by the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana • The Catholic Moment • Guest Column • December 16, 2018. Page 9.

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Have you ever heard of Young Life? If you said “no,” that makes two of us!

When my husband, Eric, and I entrusted our teenage daughter, Shannon, to the care of friends while we traveled to Italy for 10 days, we arrived home excited to share our Vatican highlight — Eric captured Pope Francis’ hand clasped with mine on our 25th wedding anniversary.

But before I said a word, Shannon enthusiastically inquired if she could attend Young Life camp.

I was thinking to myself, “What is Young Life camp and where is it?” Eric, the avid CPA in the family, was eager to learn how much it would cost. The moral of our story is: God works miracles every day if you are still enough to recognjze them.

We quickly surmised that Young Life is much more than a worldwide, week- long summer camp, it is a weekly gathering at a public place and it’s all about Jesus!

Eric and I never had the experience of attending summer camp, so the idea was new to us. Camp just wasn’t a thing growing up in our generation, or so we thought.

We didn’t know Young Life has been around for generations. Founded in 1938, it is a worldwide ministry reaching more than 1.7 million high school students, middle school students, col- lege students, students with disabilities, teen moms and military, every year.

Witnessing Shannon’s undeniable love for Jesus and that of her friends from various high schools and nearby churches sparked our interest, and suddenly there was no turning back. Eric and I jumped into Young Life eager to share our gifts. Eric was excited and sur- prised to find out that more than 200 dads show up on a given Monday night to play basketball with their kids!

Young Life is a not-for-profit Christian organization that focuses on real rela- tionships with adults who care about teenagers. Young Life represents more than 4,000 staff and 40,000 volunteers ministering in more than 80 countries around the globe.

While the Church calls all baptized Christians to work together to proclaim the Gospel and promote the common good, Young Life is ready to partner with the Catholic Church in an ecu- menical gift exchange:
• Young Life exists because of adult leaders that want to live their faith out- side the four walls of a church.
• Young Life leadership is open to any adults 18 years or older with a desire to engage in the ministry dri- ven by the vision — that every adolescent will have the opportunity to know Jesus and grow in their faith.
• Young Life leaders are willing to demonstrate authentic, faith-based friendships and share the love of Jesus by mentoring teenagers.

Young Life groups throughout Indiana are thriving, but there is huge potential for enormous growth in high schools and middle schools. Some areas that are active throughout the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana include, but are not limited to, Muncie, Lafayette, Lebanon, Zionsville, Carmel and Fishers.

Ian Faulkner, the Fishers area Young Life director, emphasized that Young Life does not and cannot replace the Church. Young Life adult leaders simply walk along- side teens and point them back to the Church. The overall goal is to engage Catholic speakers and Catholic adult leaders to share their faith journey by incorporating the sacra- ments and the saints with Young Life teens.

Pope Francis describes evangelization: “Christians must be willing to move where the Spirit leads them and not be benchwarmers on the sidelines of efforts to evangelize. A ‘couch potato’ evangelization doesn’t exist. Get up and go! Be always on the move. Go to a place where you must speak the word of God.”

There are many Church documents that have been written by previous popes about evangelization in the Catholic Church, and there is a long history of how Catholics should evangelize the faith. Throughout every age, the Catholic Church’s greatest joy and challenge is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus in ways that engage, inspire and challenge indi- viduals and the culture at large.

Young Life is on the cutting edge of youth ministry by adapting to the ever- changing world of kids today. The first forum, being organized by the National Leadership Team for Young Life in collaboration with the Diocese of Brooklyn in New York, is under the leadership of Auxiliary Bishop James Massa. It is an invitation for pastors, priests, youth ministers.

The invition is to Young Life leaders, parents, bishops, diocesan staff, teachers and administrators to come to the historic gath- ering in New York City on Jan. 24-26, 2019.

The idea is to have a team of Indiana adults represent- ing both Young Life and the Catholic Church in New York. We want people there, and particularly the right people — bridge builders, evangelizers, those who have a passion for Jesus, for kids and for the Church.

The experience will foster unity and relationship, the ability to really get to know each other, and cast a com- mon vision for reaching the next generation of teens.

Joe Reitz, former Indianapolis Colts player and parishioner at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, Carmel, shared his support for a Young Life Indiana team. He said, “Faith was first throughout my football career and serving others is at the heart of my life. My first responsibility is to God, to be a loving and servant Christian.”

Butler University men’s basketball coach LaVall Jordan was a Young Life keynote speaker saying, “My wife, Destinee, and I support Young Life and are grateful for the positive faith journey that it is providing for our three daughters.”

The Indiana team is growing. This is a defining moment in the Catholic Church. How will you respond? Registration information may be found at https://younglifecatholic forum.splashthat.com.

You can learn more about how to get involved in your local Young Life by entering a zip code into the Young Life locator on the Web site http://www.YoungLife.com.

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Kerin Buntin has a master’s degree in pastoral theology; a freelance journalist and founder of Peace Love Pilgrimage, her greatest blessing is wife and twice-blessed mom. Follow Kerin Buntin on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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