Since we are finishing up our first academic year of YDisciple, I thought I could give you a bit of a summary of the year, as well as some vision for the next step.
Overall, it seems the year was quite a success. As I have made very clear before, I consider YDisciple at our parish something that happened as a direct result of the intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I was asking her to help me figure out what to do for our high school youth, and a couple days later I heard an interview on the radio with one of the founders of Ydisciple. (I hope you are listening to Catholic radio like I am!)
In the fall we formed six groups of high school men, and five groups of high school women. (We did not have enough young women at the Antwerp campus to make a separate group, but we do have a couple leaders ready to start a young women’s group at Antwerp next year, as need be.) Gracious adult parishioners agreed to undergo some training for the program, so that we can have two adults leading each group. The idea was that each group would meet three Wednesday nights per month, and then on the remaining Wednesday nights we would have an activity for all of our high school youth together. [Groups were not bound to use Wednesday’s, but that seemed to be the best night for all of the groups.]
The year was broken into various themes, each theme being covered in four or five Wednesday gatherings. Here are some of the theme titles: “Follow Me”, “True Strength/True Beauty”, “Spreading the Gospel”, “Truth and Tolerance”, “Who Is God?”, “Who Am I?”, “The Church”, “Prayer”.
The whole-high school activities planned for each month were: a hayride and bonfire, a beanbag Catholic movie night, two occasions of Theology on Tap at the Pasttime Restaurant, a pizza/dodgeball/gaga ball night at the Divine Mercy Payne hall, and an evening visiting the nursing homes. The evening at the nursing homes got canceled because of bad weather. The Catholic movie night was not well attended, probably because we planned it on a Saturday night. The Theology on Tap evenings were great. The youth really participated beautifully! This coming Wednesday we will have another service project, i.e., the cleaning up of our two cemeteries in preparation for Memorial Day.
It seems YDisciple has been life-giving for everybody: the youth, the leaders, their families and the entire parish. So we definitely plan on forging ahead to make it even stronger.
On Sunday, July 31 we will have a whole-high school and junior high family get-together out at the old “Klinger beach” quarry. The couple that now owns this property has graciously invited us for this purpose. We will start the afternoon with prayer and a short presentation of YDisciple, including a couple student witnesses, and perhaps a group leader witness. Then we will move on to food, fun and games. This will actually serve as something of our kickoff for the next year, presenting the program to potential new families coming in from junior high, and hopefully enticing current high school families who do not yet participate in the program to get on board. All families with high school and junior high youth will receive a card in the mail about this event.
The biggest question in my mind was how to transition into our second year. In particular, should we start brand-new groups with any new students coming in, or could we bring new students into the old groups? Looking at numbers, and getting the advice of people already involved, I decided we should try bringing the new students into the already-existing groups, although there might be an exception to this in one case or another. We really have to see concretely who signs up to be part of the program next year. In order to transition new students into existing groups, we will start three weeks early with the new students. In August, three Sunday afternoons will be for presenting the first (necessary!) theme of the whole program, entitled “Follow Me”. These sessions will be in the Ed Center at Paulding, lasting two hours each. (The groups throughout the year normally meet in somebody’s home.) After this introductory theme is complete, the new members will be divided up into existing groups. As with the groups last year, students will have an opportunity to suggest to us which group they want to be part of, but we will be ready to place them, too.
Because I am not sure if I will have to train new group leaders, I am already on the lookout for youth-friendly parishioners who are willing to become rockstar youth leaders! If you or somebody you know should be considering helping out with this program, please contact me. A group leader needs to complete some training videos online, and then participate in some group sessions (with me) to get used to the actual material used in the small groups. The group leaders need not be theological experts, because the video materials really handle the catechesis with each theme. (Of course all group leaders have to meet diocesan guidelines for completing a background check and child-protection training.)
Next year, as I did this year, I will make up a syllabus for each semester that combines the topics to be covered as well as the whole-high school events. The groups always have some flexibility to move things around a bit, based on their own specific schedule and needs.
So there is a bit of summary, and an explanation of how we will move forward. I am so immensely grateful for all the work our youth leaders did this year! They stepped into something that was entirely new for this parish, and that requires a great amount of courage and hope. I can’t thank them enough! But then there are many other people who helped so much to make the year work: especially members of the high school core planning team, and then those people allowed groups to meet in their homes, and those who gave of their time and talent to make individual events happen. Look what happens when we all coordinate our efforts and pitch in!
I have also been in discussions with people who are wondering if the high school youth could do some type of mission trip. Perhaps something in Appalachia? Or someplace even closer? Or someplace even further away? Sometime in the summer break? I am totally willing to entertain the possibility. Of course it would take major planning and practical organization.
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,