San Antonio, Texas — Oblates and Youth Ministers representing Canada, the United States, and Baja California (Mexico) gathered for a Youth Minister Forum organized by the Oblates Working with Youth and Young Adults Committee. One of the most obvious reasons for the meeting was to gather and network as workers in the Lord’s vineyard as part of the Mazenodian Family.

The opening night started with dinner and night prayer before the Oblate Cross and the lighting of four candles, representative of the different areas of the Canada/US Region. Dr. Alex Gotay (Houston-based Catholic Youth Minister) and Mr. Mike Patin (Catholic speaker from Lafayette, Louisiana) contributed tools and certain elements of methodology to approach youth ministry. They each presented their themes in unique and relatable ways.

Frs. Jesse ESQUEDA and Frank SANTUCCI focused on the pastoral and spiritual aspects of Oblate ministry with youth and young adults. Fr. Santucci spoke of the origins of St. Eugene’s personal conversion and the development of his pastoral efforts with the youth of post-Revolution France and the creation of the Youth Congregation of Faith in Aix, his pastoral ministry to youth. Fr. Esqueda recalled that youth ministry efforts should have an Oblate identity and he suggested 5 pillars or values for Oblate Youth Ministries.

Fr. Ray COOK presented data from a survey on “Personal Struggles: Young Adults and Faith.” Data from the survey reveals that young adults struggle with certain issues such as: genuine prayer rather than devotionals; mental illness and anxiety; and pornography. He encouraged youth ministers to learn from such information in order to guide youth ministry efforts.

Gabriela Karaszewski (Director of Young Adult Ministry — Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston) highlighted young adult needs and reinforced the call from Pope Francis to have a missionary outlook towards that population. The missionary call includes:

  1. becoming a culture of encounter;
  2. listening to concerns;
  3. accompaniment through action and words;
  4. going out to meet the people. She concluded that young adults are seeking community and not a program, so young adult ministry should create the community and not simply serve them.

The Forum concluded with the annual youth rally of the Tepeyac-Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes’ Shrine . This year’s theme was #KnowYourSelfie. In the spirit of a contemporary world that offers so many identities and false expectations, the rally focused on recognizing one’s own identity as being fully human, a faithful Christian and the call to be an authentic saint. It was an effort to inspire youth from Oblate and neighboring parishes to see St. Eugene’s methodology for ministry, especially with youth. “If we are willing to share so much in the digital world, why not share the Kingdom of Heaven?” — Dr. Alex Gotay. (By Fr. Juan GASPAR in )