Ministering to teens today: ‘It’s about salvation’

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

Back on his old stomping grounds, Pat Millea reached out to delegates of the Vision 20/20 Convocation earlier this summer on how to minister to teens today.

Anne Marie Amacher
Pat Sheil, director of religious education and youth minister at St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt, talks with speaker Pat Millea following a presentation June 7.

A native of Davenport and St. Paul the Apostle Parish there, Millea is a youth minister in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

He asked the delegates to tell him the point of youth ministry. Responses included, it’s a safe place to talk, to be a part of parish life. “It’s not just a place to belong or just to teach faith. It’s about salvation,” Millea said. Jesus went out to the people. He built relationships that were faithful, relational and vocational.

When asked to respond to the question why teens aren’t more active in their faith today, delegates said because parents are not active and faith is not a priority. “We need faithful ministers,” Millea said. Youths “want to be shown the faith. Introduce them to the real church.”

Displaying an image from a Lord of the Rings movie that depicts good people surrounded by evil, Millea said Catholics need to stand their ground and “fight against hell. If we don’t, all hope is lost.”

He advised his audience that no one should condemn. Identify weakness and bring remedy, which is Jesus, he said.

To have a relationship with youths, get to know them. “Be intentional. Bring souls to Jesus.” It might be years before results are seen, but don’t give up, he encouraged the delegates.

Millea showed a picture he took at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. It shows a priest, two religious sisters, a lay woman and a homeless woman kneeling in adoration. “Keep your eyes on Jesus. Take the opportunity to listen to God’s word.”

For “every single teen you know to be faithfully Catholic,” show them that everyone deserves to know God, he said. He offered seven practical approaches to “let Jesus work in their lives:”

The first is prayer. The second is to leverage the sacrament of confirmation. “This sacrament is not a means to an end.” As the youths are going through confirmation preparation, see what talents and gifts they have and invite them to get involved in the church.”

Third, encourage peer ministry. Let them reach out and speak about their faith, he said. Fourth, focus on solid mountaintop experiences through rallies, conferences and other activities. Fifth, develop witnesses and testimonies. “Teach skills to talk about our faith.”

Sixth, always point to the sacraments. Encourage confession, attend Mass every Sunday and share the value of baptism and confirmation. Seventh, never stop evangelizing.

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