SEATTLE – Seven parishes have teamed up to provide a ministry that better serves their youth and helps build their faith.
“We want a program that forms our students to be saints in the world,” said Kate Brown, youth ministry director for the “N Seattle Catholic Youth” parishes: Christ the King, Our Lady of the Lake, St. Benedict, St. Catherine of Siena, St. John and St. Mathew, all in Seattle; and St. Mark in Shoreline.
“It’s really hard for these smaller parishes to get something vibrant going,” said Marti Lundberg, pastoral coordinator at St. Benedict’s. Sometimes only four to eight kids would turn out for youth ministry programs at her parish, Lundberg said. If only two showed up, the gathering was canceled.
“The students need the opportunity to grow in their faith,” Lundberg said. “Their faith can be a real strength for them.”
By pooling their resources, parish leaders aim to provide a ministry that is more meaningful for students in grades 6–12 and encourages them to become active parishioners. The new ministry will “help them see what their gifts are and how they can work for their parish,” Lundberg said.
The students meet Sunday evenings at the centrally located St. Catherine of Siena Parish, but special events will be scheduled at the other six parishes. Middle-schoolers meet first, followed by a meal open to all kids in grades 6–12. The high-schoolers have their gathering afterward.
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Brown, who is known as “KB” and previously worked in high school ministry in Indianapolis, said she was pleased that an average of 35 middle school students and 15 high school students turned out for the first gatherings in October. A total of 91 students have shown up, with 71 percent of them returning.
Jenny Osburn, 16, a parishioner at St. Mark’s, said the combined ministry offers a chance to share her faith with people close to her own age. A lot of the kids at St. Mark’s are younger, noted Osburn’s 15-year-old brother Jim.
The youth gatherings are divided into series of four to six weeks, each focusing on one topic. The first theme, “Everyday Saints,” focused on people in the youth ministry sharing stories “about how they fell in love with Jesus and are living out their call to be saints.” At one meeting, students discussed their feelings about the Oct. 1 shootings in Las Vegas and how to find God in such situations. They also took the opportunity to pray, Brown said.
During December, students are being asked to participate in service projects at the parishes, from sorting toys from the Giving Tree at Our Lady of the Lake to preparing Christmas Eve meals and gifts for homeless men staying at Christ the King.
Brown is getting out the word about the new ministry by speaking at Masses, ministry fairs and parish events. Volunteers at each parish maintain the connection with the youth ministry and will attend parish events. “They’re a familiar face in the everyday life of the parish,” Brown explained.
By combining the seven parish youth ministries into one, Lundberg said, “I hope to see the kids grow in their understanding of who God is in their lives.”