Teens and technology take to the road

  • Written by Catherine Johnston
  • Published in Local
Students had a variety of small-group discussions about social media during a retreat that traveled to three Southern Deanery parishes in October. Photo: Jamie Kohler Students had a variety of small-group discussions about social media during a retreat that traveled to three Southern Deanery parishes in October. Photo: Jamie Kohler

VANCOUVER - Anais Urias brought her cell phone to a recent youth group retreat and posted lots of photos on Instagram — with the blessing of parish youth ministry leaders.

It was part of the first all-day “traveling roadshow” that drew nearly 100 high school students from the archdiocese’s Southern Deanery parishes. On Oct. 12, the teens (and their electronic devices) traveled to three parishes, where they met other students and delved into a deeply relevant topic: the pluses and pitfalls of social media.

“If we are going to use social media, we should use it to build God’s kingdom and not tear each other down,” said Jamie Kohler, pastoral assistant for faith formation at Vancouver’s Holy Redeemer Parish, who hatched the roadshow idea.

The day began at St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield, north of Vancouver, where the teens were greeted by the pastor, Father David Mayovsky. The students listened to speakers, watched videos and broke into small groups to discuss the day’s four topics: screens, connections, communications and apps.

Urias, a 16-year-old member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Camas, was one of the day’s speakers. “We have many ways to communicate with God, but the world distracts us,” said Urias, a junior at Seton Catholic High School in Vancouver. “God wants that relationship with us. We need to be surrounded by good material.”

Social media can be used in a positive way, she said, by sharing Bible readings and inspirational quotes, or just learning more about other people.

After praying together in the chapel and sharing sack lunches in the St. Mary’s parish hall, the group traveled in a caravan to Holy Redeemer Parish for more presentations and discussions before heading to St. Joseph Parish in Vancouver for evening Mass and dinner.

“The retreat was a perfect opportunity to get to know other kids in our deanery,” said Kaitlyn Goertzen, a 17-year-old parishioner at Holy Redeemer. “I was impressed by how people bonded. We keep in touch; we have new friends.”

Another event is already planned for the teens: a Nov. 23 “BAM (Be a missionary) fire” at Holy Redeemer. Teens from every Southern Deanery parish are invited to enjoy the bonfire, where they will roast food, sing and hear other teens’ witness talks.