The Diocese of Burlington is in the process of moving reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation to the sixth grade. It will, thus, become imperative for parishes and deaneries to deliberately and prayerfully develop opportunities for middle and high school teens to continue their walk of faith in the context of Christian community.

A number of suggestions and recommendations are being proffered for all parishes in Vermont. The hope and plan is that every parish will consider options such as forming youth nights or youth groups, service groups, Catholic scouting, small group discipleship programs or simply give focused thought to how to better incorporate youth into current parish ministries.

There are a number of resources available including Life Teen, YDisciple and various teen Bible study programs to help parishes develop intimate communities of faith where youth will feel supported in their Christian walk.

The Diocese also is developing a large online resource for supporting youth ministers and those working in the vineyard of serving youth. It can be found at vermont-catholic.org/youthresources. This resource contains ideas for developing youth disciples, basics of youth ministry, educational videos, ideas for retreats and pilgrimages, ice breakers, websites and apps, books and movie ideas, lesson plans and activities, fundraising, service ideas and prayer and sacramental help. There is also a large library of articles regarding contemporary moral issues to help those working with youth to best address the challenging issues of today.

Another key step in this transition process — maybe the most important step — will be parishes establishing a coordinator of youth discipleship position (youth minister). This person will be a liaison for diocesan events but also the one tasked with garnering overall parish support and prioritization of young people. Indeed, it will take the whole Catholic community in Vermont to focus energy on not only the youth in our pews but also the tens of thousands of youth throughout Vermont who need to hear the Gospel. The Gospel of Matthew 19:14 quotes Jesus, “‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them.”

Let us not only “not hinder” the children but be a light and conduit through which they discover what it means to be a disciple in the midst of a loving and joy-filled Catholic Christian community of faith.

— Bill Gavin is director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Burlington.

—Originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.

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