At the heart of Notre Dame Vision is the mission to empower young people to recognize grace at work in their lives and respond to God’s call by offering their gifts in service to the needs of the world. For the past eighteen years, this mission has been carried out each summer through four week-long conferences for high school students and parallel conferences for campus and youth ministers.
Ministry leaders are working hard this year to adapt programs to new formats, including online and hybrid models. It can be tempting to “copy and paste” old programs into new formats, to put old wine into new wineskins (see Matthew 9:17, Mark 2:22, and Luke 5:37–38). For example, we can email parents a lesson plan and tell them which pages to cover in the religious ed textbook, or we can gather the teens on Zoom to watch the youth minister give a talk and send them into breakout rooms for small group time. These solutions are fine, but they fail to respond creatively and take into account the reality we are all experiencing.
Dear high school youth ministers,
Congratulations! Though it has had an ending unlike any other, another successful year is on the books and another amazing group of seniors has been launched from your ministry. While it’s sad to see them go, they’re off to bigger and better things, armed with a wealth of faith and wisdom gained from their youth ministry experiences.
But what is next for them in their life of faith? Will their relationship with Christ and their Catholic faith continue in college and beyond? These are hard but important questions. One Pew study reports that most people who leave the Catholic faith will do so before the age of 24. The same study also states that only 32% of those involved in Catholic youth groups remain Catholic as adults. Like high school, college is a critical time in the faith lives of young people.