Lazarus Retreat #5 took place on Feb. 17-19, 2023 at Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center. COURTESY OF CHARLIE HARDESTY
‘A new horizon, a decisive direction’
Opportunities for youth to encounter Jesus Christ
BY CHARLIE HARDESTY, OFFICE OF YOUTH AND YOUNG ADULT MINISTRY
As I go around the diocese trying to aid parish youth ministry efforts, my message has become the need for 1) adults who care (as noted in the January issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic), 2) opportunities for the faith lives of youth to come alive, and 3) opportunities for youth to live out their faith as disciples. For this article, I want to look at number two.
The late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI stated, “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” That person is Jesus Christ. Throughout scripture we see when people encounter Jesus, they are met with love, compassion, and a kind of conviction that inspires a reorienting (“metanoia”) of life to follow He who sets us free (Gal. 5:1).
We can teach young people about the Catholic faith for their entire lives, but they also need (perhaps first) conversion: a life-altering encounter. St. Pope John Paul II shares, “The definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity.”
Opportunities to encounter Jesus need to be happening in every home and every parish as often as possible. Reflective prayer experiences, Eucharistic Adoration, parish retreats, mission trips, the sacraments, great conversations, and certainly the Mass are all ways of providing this kind of encounter. We are also blessed in this diocese to have gatherings and events for youth regularly in which the aim is a lifechanging encounter with Jesus. Here is a list of all the events in the next year that you could invite youth to experience.
Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp (June and July 2023) – For third through twelfth grade youth: www.gasperriverretreatcenter.org/camp-information
Holy Fire (Tentatively Oct. 21, 2023) – For middle school youth: www.eqsaints.com/holyfire-nashville
National Catholic Youth Conference (Nov. 16-18, 2023) – For high school youth. Information about going to NCYC is available through each parish in the diocese. https://ncyc.us/ for event details.
Christmas Camp at Gasper River (Dec. 29, 2023-Jan. 1, 2024) – For eighth-twelfth grade youth: www.gasperriverretreatcenter.org/camp-information
Encuentro Youth Retreat (Tentatively January 2024) – For Hispanic youth who are attending the Encuentro gatherings held throughout the diocese with their families. More details to come.
Lazarus Retreat (Feb. 16-18, 2024) – A one-time retreat experience for high school youth at Gasper River: www.owensborodiocese.org/lazarus-retreat/
YOUTH 2000 (March 15-17, 2024) – For ages 13-30: www.owensborodiocese.org/youth-2000.
I am inviting all who are reading this article to think “relentless invitation.” We need your help to invite young people and to not take “no” for an answer when it comes to building up their faith. I often witness to being the product of a “nagging mother” when it comes to my own faith. I am grateful she never stopped inviting me to Mass. Please join me in relentlessly inviting young people to encounter Jesus.
Charlie Hardesty is the director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. Learn more at owensborodiocese.org/youth-ministry and email him at [email protected].
Originally printed in the April 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.