Life Teen: a contemporary youth ministry

Omnes-June 18, 2018-Reading time: 5 minutes

Life Teen is a catechetical methodology from the United States, which is beginning to be implemented in some parishes in our country. Since Barcelona, where the groups started, more and more dioceses are showing interest in applying this method.

Text - Laura Atas, Parish of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Burgos

At the beginning of the school year, we were faced with a growing group of teenagers who met every two weeks in the parish. These evenings were organized with a structure of FOrmation, PRAYER and CEna (FORCE), in an environment where the kids could make friends and continue with their Christian formation after Confirmation, a time when many abandon almost all contact with the Church and their parish. However, we noticed that we lacked a continuity that did not depend exclusively on our imagination, put into action every fifteen days, to prepare the meetings.

A way to revitalize the parish

In view of their increased interest (they themselves asked for weekly meetings), we felt the need to look for a proposal that would help us to form them in a complete and coherent way as Christians.

At the same time, we wanted this group to be in communion with the parish, being its point of reference and enriching the life of the parish. We wanted to be able to dedicate our time and efforts to these young people, who often find themselves without sufficiently stable and attractive references within the Church. In this search process, the Life Teen proposal appeared. It aims to bring young people closer to Christ through two axes: dynamic catechesis and an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist. Coincidentally, at that time, a meeting had been organized in Madrid. We returned enthusiastic, having found a method with which we could catechize our young people in a close way, with a response that adapted to their way of being. With Jesus as the center of our sessions, we began to implement these attractive catecheses, now weekly. The first challenge was to find a team to support the priest in charge of the sessions. This group was gradually formed to give rise, today, to people committed to the education and accompaniment of the children, for whom the work dedicated to the preparation and development of the sessions has become a rewarding opportunity to understand and transmit Christ. We are composed of five young people and two nuns who, together with the parochial vicar, prepare the meetings with great affection.

We began the new course full of hope and strength, not knowing exactly where this new adventure would lead us. The young people's response was almost immediate. In a few weeks, with the diffusion made by the participants themselves, every Friday night an average of more than 30 young people come to the parish halls, being about 50 in total who make up this group. It is their enthusiasm and their desire to participate in each session and in the experiences that accompany the itinerary such as volunteering, excursions or camps, which encourages us to continue with this precious evangelizing journey.

Scenographies, music and spaces for conversation

To understand what Life Teen is like, let's take an example of one of the sessions we have done. The first thing to do is to be clear about our training objective, and to establish agile times to develop the different activities with order, imagination and the participation of everyone.
Last January it was our turn to talk about the miracles of Jesus, emphasizing that the great miracle is the resurrection, and its consequence on earth, the Eucharist. The team had prepared a mountain, in which the Holy Sepulcher was "excavated" with its rock removed, all prepared in half an hour with brown continuous paper, and leaving it hidden behind a large sliding door. As the young people arrived, we welcomed them with our usual smile and joy, while we shared some of the things they had brought for dinner, with ambient music of the kind they like. Then, we always prepared an action; in this case, they had to discover some evidence to identify true and false statements, in a team game. After discovering our mountain, they began the fifteen minutes on the reality of Jesus' miracles and his great miracle in the resurrection.

Another twenty minutes were spent sharing in teams, by age, the miracles they had witnessed in their lives. Then we returned in front of the mountain and went into adoration, bringing the Blessed Sacrament and placing it in the tomb, thus showing the connection between the resurrection and the Eucharist. There, with some songs, they were able to write to Jesus, thanking Him for the miracles He had done and entrusting to Him the miracles they hoped to receive in the future. At eleven o'clock at night we ended the session. For us, adoration has undoubtedly become the most awaited moment of the whole week.

Promising results

After these six months of work, this is the result. From a parish where there were hardly any young people left after confirmation, we found ourselves with a group of more than forty young people between 14 and 20 years of age, including monitors and companions, enthusiastic about their faith. Several of them, sharing their experience, after a time of distance from the faith, serious doubts about the Church and even having abandoned religious practice, now say that they have met Jesus and are happy to have rediscovered him with strength. The young people themselves are taking it upon themselves to bring their friends from school, the university or the neighborhood. They feel they are missionaries who, in time and out of time, insist on their proposal to "come and try". They are convinced that there could be many more who could take advantage of living a Christian life, and even the older ones are already dreaming that, in a few years, we could send catechists to other parishes that wish to multiply this initiative in other parts of the city.

We currently have a session on Fridays, at nine o'clock in the evening, which ends (in theory) at eleven o'clock. The insistence of the older members of the group has forced us to extend the meeting, in order to continue sharing their concerns. This has meant that those over sixteen can stay until almost one o'clock in the morning, dealing with another subject of their interest, and accompanied by the priest, in a session they call LifeTeen2.

We send parents a whatsapp every week so they can know what their children have discussed in the session. The families are deeply grateful to see that their children are becoming more and more comfortable in the parish. They find that several of the children have started as catechist assistants, have joined the catechetical Mass choir or are collaborating as monitors in the games organized, since this course, at the end of the celebration of the Eucharist.

The parents of the confirmation children have already shown their interest in the initiative. Before the end of the school year, we will introduce this format in a version aimed at the 1st and 2nd years of secondary school, on Fridays at 7:30 pm. In this way, they will get to know how they can continue to feel at home when they come to the parish, once they have finished their Christian initiation formation. This Life Teen group will also have a group of leaders.

As a project, we want to deepen the personal accompaniment of each of the participants. We see ourselves with the strength to try to reach in a short period of time one hundred percent of those who come to Life Teen.

The thirst of these young people is so great that we are always looking for enough food. This is why, during the year, we were able to participate in a volunteer experience in the social and health center of the Sisters Hospitallers of Palencia or in the European meeting of Life Teen leaders in Montserrat. These experiences, and those we hope to carry out during Easter and summer, are also ways to respond to their growing concerns. These concerns are shown by the fact that even questions about vocation are already arising among some young people. It is not at all strange that some of them are publicly expressing their openness to vocations of special consecration.

With the parish as a place of reference, these young people are getting closer to Jesus Christ, discovering what it really means to be His disciples and how to bring the joy of a life with Him to the people around them.

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