The National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry recently held its annual membership meeting here, seeking to support and strengthen those who accompany young people as they encounter and follow Jesus Christ.
The organization, based in Washington, D.C., met at the OMNI Hotel at the Colonnade Jan. 3-7. The gathering featured workshops and keynote speakers committed to advancing the field of pastoral ministry to young people built on a firm foundation rooted in Christ, driven by integrity, and focused on the future of the church.
Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, celebrated the closing Mass at the annual meeting on Jan. 6, the feast of St. Paul Mikki and his companions, martyrs for the faith.
In opening remarks to the youth ministers, the archbishop said he was blessed to celebrate the Eucharist for them, bringing closure to days of reflection in which they had been able to explore, refresh, and reaffirm their commitment to serve the Lord and His Church through the evangelization of youth.
The first reading at the liturgy from the Book of Kings contained David’s last words to his son Solomon, instructing him on God’s way with the hope that he would be a worthy successor of the throne in the kingdom he had served. He instructs Solomon to follow all the ways of the Lord, and then he blesses him.
“In God’s plan for creation, this is what families should be constantly doing. Parents should teach and bless their children in God’s own ways,” Archbishop Gustavo explained, adding, “But we have to recognize that this doesn’t happen as much as we would like. For varied reasons you well know, many children of God do not receive the instruction or the blessing they should get through their families. This is one of the motives that we have as a Church to promote the formation of good youth ministers. We need all of you, brothers and sisters, so that our youth may receive the Word that gives life to our hearts and remain as faithful followers of Christ.”
The archbishop told the youth ministers that their mission and vocation is special because they are called to exercise in many ways spiritual brotherhood, sisterhood, fatherhood, and motherhood. “You have to share the message of the Gospel with those you serve, but with gentleness and love so that those words can come deep into their hearts and transform their vision of life.”
The Missionary of the Holy Spirit also expressed his delight that the conference was consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, saying he hoped that attendees were inspired by this mystery in the service to God’s little ones.
Reflecting about how the devotion to the Sacred Heart should be transformative in our own lives, Pope Francis taught: “His heart is open, but the great do not recognize His voice because they are not able to hear it because they are full of themselves. To hear the voice of the Lord, you must make yourself little.”
The San Antonio prelate called on listeners to ponder on what this may mean for them. “I just want to encourage you to ask the Lord to make your heart wise as those of our elders but also to keep it vibrant and open to life as those of our youth, so that you can communicate our faith and our hope to the new generations you are reaching through your ministry,” he emphasized. “That is your call, to be at the same time great and little, just as the Sacred Heart of Jesus has revealed itself to be.”
Archbishop Gustavo also shared his hope that attendees found good opportunities to connect to one another. “When we stand together, we are stronger,” he concluded. “May Our Lady of Guadalupe, who always helps us to remember how God wants to reach those who are vulnerable and feel abandoned, keep you safe in your mission to take the love and message of Her Son to those young hearts who are certainly longing for it.”