By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
After some two years of discernment, prayer and planning, a new Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office has been launched in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, with a renewed focus on discipleship and accompaniment.
The launch includes the introduction of “Project Timothy” a leadership development program led by diocesan Evangelization and Mission Leader John Hickey and Sr. Marta Piano of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity. The two leaders will recruit, mentor and accompany young adults who have a desire to share their faith and reach out to other youth and young adults.
Other priorities for diocesan Youth and Young Adult Ministry have also been established: providing support and trainingfor youth ministry in parishes across the diocese, and offering diocesan events “as a place of encounter” for youth and young adults.
“The focus is less on programming and more on discipleship and accompaniment,” describes Bishop Mark Hagemoen.
“The focus of Project Timothy is calling and supporting youth as ‘disciples’ through what Pope Francis calls ‘the art of accompaniment,’” the bishop writes in a June 8 letter to the diocese about the new direction for Youth and Young Adult Ministry in the diocese. “
“It has been a slow process, but we are excited to announce this shift in the way will be delivering Youth and Young Adult Ministry in the diocese of Saskatoon,” says Marilyn Jackson, diocesan Director of Pastoral Services. “We sure did not anticipate it would take two years.”
COVID-19 caused delays, she says, but adds that these delays “did not stop the Holy Spirit from moving gently through our time of discernment.… God revealed his plan, one piece at a time.”
The two-year discernment process started with the establishment of a task force to identify features and gaps in youth ministry. “It was a group of adults, young adults, single, married, teachers, ministry leaders and clergy. The data we collected was then shared with a consultant, who presented us with a model of making missionary disciples,” says Jackson.
“Our diocese has been ready to launch our youth ministry strategy for awhile,” notes Bishop Mark Hagemoen in a video released June 8 (below).
“Coming out of COVID-19 is not the occasion to stand back and wait to see if our pews fill up, but it is a time to be bold and to move forward with a renewed focus on forming missionary disciples,” he says.
The launch of the new Youth and Young Adult Ministry model is not an isolated event or decision, notes Hagemoen, pointing out that this new path is also connected to moving the age of confirmation to an older age (Grade 6), and to vocation formation – including the new Sts. Benedict and Scholastica Formation Program recently launched in partnership with St. Thomas More College – and to a renewed focus on adult faith formation emphasizing discipleship and evangelization.
It also reflects the diocesan Pastoral Plan to “Proclaim Christ and God’s Kingdom Today,” notes the bishop, with several priorities reflected in the new Youth and Young Adult Ministry approach including:
- helping young people discern God’s call to share in the mission and life of the Lord
- strengthening and supporting vocations;
- promoting the healing journey; and
- supporting a deepening friendship and intimacy with Jesus Christ.
“May the Holy Spirit – who has led us to this point – bless and guide all of our efforts in support of children, youth, young adults, and all families and communities,” says Bishop Hagemoen.
In particular, Project Timothy will be a new path for youth ministry in the diocese.
“Project Timothy represents a new way of doing things. Not only do we have programs for our young people, but indeed we call our young people to be leaders, to be mentors, to be disciples of Christ as they call forth and other young people to be leaders in the church and in the world in the way of Jesus Christ,” the bishop describes in the video released June 8.
“As a diocese, our vision for this new moment in history is to enter boldly into something new,” says team member John Hickey. “Project Timothy represents a shift: a new way of doing things—not just to minister to needs of the young people in our diocese, but to train and empower them to minister to the needs of their peers, and form disciples wherever they go.”
Through Project Timothy, co-leaders John Hickey and Sr. Marta Piano will “accompany, equip and empower” a team of young leaders to become missionary disciples within the diocese.
“These missionary disciples will go out to form their own apostolates or small groups among the youth, their peers, in schools and parishes, and anywhere the mission field takes them,” explains Piano.
The new co-leaders are eager to begin, sharing their hopes for the new initiative in the video at rcdos.ca/youth.
“In this moment I can see a resurrected church, alive like never before. I can see our pews crowded with people young and old, standing shoulder to shoulder like we’ve been unable to do for so long,” says Hickey.
“I can see a church thriving with new missions, new ministries, new leaders, and new ways of reaching every last person with the good news of Jesus Christ,” adds Piano. “As St. Catherine of Siena states: ‘If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire.’”