Professor Ron Bolster, director of the Catechetics Program at Franciscan University, teaches one of the break-out sessions at this year's Bosco Conference.
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STEUBENVILLE, OH—“They might not have the language to put to it, but I will tell you that in my experience, young people are deeply faithful. They have a deeply religious spirit but cannot always articulate it because they have not been catechized and evangelized. It’s our job to give them the language of their spirits,” said Father Louis Molinelli, SDB, at the July 17-21 St. John Bosco Conference for Catechists and Religious Educators at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
Father Molinelli, who is president and director of Archbishop Shaw High School in Marrero, Louisiana, drew from the example of St. John Bosco in reaching out to the youth.
“Our young people need to be evangelized because the message has not gotten through that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior—there is too much in the lives of many kids that’s standing in the way of that,” he said. “So we have to be first of all the proclaimers.”
The five-day conference, which was packed with workshops, seminars, daily Mass, Holy Hours, and confession opportunities, filled teachers, youth ministers, directors of religious education, and others with the inspiration and challenge to raise up their students in the Catholic faith.
Professor James Pauley of Franciscan University’s Theology Department, explained that all youth ministry is oriented toward the sacramental life and that the liturgy must be seen as the source for teaching and catechesis.
“The work of making disciples has two primary dimensions: a sacramental dimension and a catechetical dimension. These two are interconnected; in order for authentic Catholic evangelism to be taking place they cannot be separated,” Pauley said.
Closely connected was theology professor Bob Rice’s workshop, which pointed out the pitfalls of entering youth ministry with the wrong mindset.
“Many times we think we’re really raising up some great Christian leaders, and we’re just raising up moral therapeutic deists, who just think that they need to be good, and ‘I come to youth group because it makes me feel good, and if it stops making me feel good, I stop going,’” he said, stating that leaders must use a “missionary attitude” when it comes to entering the youth culture.
“What they need is a big brother, a mentor, a loving adult who’s part of their parish community who can give them a new perspective and reach out to them,” he said.
Similarly, Sister M. Johanna Paruch, FSGM, PhD, presented the need to teach Catholic virtue in an orthodox light, avoiding feel-good values education.
“I had values education in high school; I wasn’t taught religion at all,” she said. “But the Gospel is not about values, the Gospel is about Jesus Christ!”
Sister Paruch is a catechetics professor at Franciscan University and author of the new book Mentors for the New Evangelization.
She added that often, the Church’s instructions on caring for creation are watered down to mere social justice activism, missing the dignity of the person: “But the person is the center of all creation,” she said. “Creation was created for man, not the other way around.”
André Regnier, co-founder of Canada’s Catholic Christian Outreach for college and university campus ministry, said that it is crucial to urge—and challenge—university students in their mission to change the world.
“University students want to change the world, and have the means and the energy to do it. But only university students that are challenged to high ideals,” he said.
On that note, Bishop Richard Malone of the Diocese of Buffalo, New York, stressed that while many universities struggle in this area, Franciscan University has the needed purpose-driven teachings often disregarded elsewhere.
“You know, and I know, and the bishops know that sadly, we cannot point to the majority of our Catholic colleges and universities as having the kind of commitment to evangelization and catechesis, teaching the orthodox faith in a dynamic, authentic way, that Franciscan is known for everywhere,” he said. “I’m very proud of Franciscan.”
For more information on Franciscan University conferences, including a complete list of conferences for adults and youth, visit www.franciscanconferences.com.