Youth ministers gather in Saskatoon
By Anne-Marie Hughes
SASKATOON — “I treasure my week here,” said Rev. Dale Normandeau of the Diocese of Kamloops, when describing his experience of coming to Saskatoon for the summer seminar offered by the Western Canadian Association of Catholic Youth Ministers (WCACYM).
He and 26 others came to Queen’s House in Saskatoon to take courses toward a Canadian Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies.
The training is for co-ordinators of youth ministry, volunteer youth ministers, pastors, pastoral workers, chaplains, teachers, campus minsters and parents. The courses are offered across Canada throughout the year one at a time, but every summer the Western Canadian group offers a more intense opportunity to take two or three courses in a week with a live-in format.
Having a group of youth minsters from across Western Canada together in one place for seven days is an opportunity to offer more than just the course material, say organizers.
“For this week we offer participants a chance to live what we are teaching and preaching,” explains Laurie Friesen of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon, who was one of two co-ordinators organizing activities for the week.
“The course work gives a comprehensive vision of youth ministry that we take into the planning of this week to give attendees an opportunity to experience themselves what they are learning all about.”
In addition to the daylong course work, the program included everything from celebration of the Eastern Rite of the eucharist, the divine liturgy, and meeting icon writers to mall crawls and Olympics-inspired evening events.
Friesen and co-organizer Colm Leyne of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon are themselves graduates of the certificate program.
“We take what we learned in the course material and include activities which give students a chance to participate themselves in concrete examples of what they are learning,” said Friesen.
Each morning began in prayer and mass was celebrated every day. Planners use this format to include different experiences of these rites each day.
The mall crawl had a modern technological twist. “It is basically a scavenger hunt using social technology like Facebook and texts to find the clues and communicate with the organizers,” explains Leyne. “Youth today are very into their smart phones and modern communication. We wanted the youth ministers to experience a way of integrating that interest into a fun activity.”
While many picture youth ministers as being single young students, the course participants represented a broad spectrum of ministry, with clergy, nuns, pastoral associates and parents participating.
Normandeau sees the seminar as about more than just youth ministry. “I take the material presented here and apply it to a number of aspects of parish life in general. The courses have given me tools and insights I use to create a healthy parish life.”
Course work covers eight major areas of Catholic Youth Ministry: principles
of youth ministry, practices of youth ministry, foundations of ministry
leadership, skills for Christian leadership, prayer and worship, pastoral
care, justice and service, and evangelization and catechesis.