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Kenneth Hammell, a new graduate of Chaminade High School, laughed with other graduating seniors in the youth group at a traditional send-off at St. Clement of Rome Parish in Des Peres
Kenneth Hammell, a new graduate of Chaminade High School, laughed with other graduating seniors in the youth group at a traditional send-off at St. Clement of Rome Parish in Des Peres
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

ACA | Youth ministry helps teens form a relationship with Jesus

Youth minister relishes role of reminding teens of their value

Courtney Rockamann’s role as a source of hope and joy for teens is enhanced by programs of the archdiocese’s Office of Youth Ministry.

It impacts her, the teens she works with and St. Anselm Parish as a whole, Rockamannn said.

A Discover Process she undertook with the office helped articulate the mission, vision and values of St. Anselm’s youth ministry. “It makes it really easy to know what the Lord is calling us to do as a youth ministry,” she said, and it “gives us a great grounding. Obviously I want to lead teens closer to Jesus and having a relationship with Him.”

The process was “a lot of prayer, brainstorming and being honest about what’s hard about ministering to teens today, having hope about the possibilities we can offer youth in a not-hopeful world sometimes.” It reminded her of why she is doing the work when dealing with difficult situations such as COVID-19 issues or dealing with parents who believe that sports are more important than church.

Claire Scannell meditated on a passage from the Bible during an evening of flag football and Ignation prayer for the youth group at Assumption Parish in St. Louis in July.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston
For its many efforts, the Office of Youth Ministry was slated to receive $20,000 from the 2021 Annual Catholic Appeal. The Office of Youth Ministry serves youth ministers, Scout leaders, priests, parish ministers and parents with leadership training and formation, consultation and events.

In September, a formation and certification program called Wellspring was set to launch to assist youth ministers in their ministry. Retreats for youth ministers are offered at a discount through donations and ACA funding. Appeal funds also assist with programs for Scout leaders and with the Totus Tuus program, which invites young parishioners to grow their relationship with Jesus and His Church with the help of college students who are trained as missionaries.

Approximately 85 full-time, part-time and volunteer youth ministers serve in the archdiocese. Pope Francis states in “Christus Vivit,” his letter to young people following an October 2018 synod, that everyone plays a role in forming young people and that youth ministry is vital in raising up strong Catholics. Amy Eschelbach, director of the Office of Youth Ministry, takes that to heart. “Youth ministry is just another way a parish can reach out to young people,” she said.

Totus Tuus missionary Colleen Wheadon talked to Cora Schmidt during Totus Tuus at Annunciation Parish in Webster Groves in July.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston
It’s gratifying to see young people attend an event or youth ministry program and then incorporate prayer in their personal relationship with the Lord, Eschelbach said. “Our goal is to serve the youth ministers so they can better serve the teens.”

Rockamannn, the St. Anselm youth minister, said she appreciates the Office of Youth Ministry staff and other youth ministers who serve as a resource for her. Youth ministry has a high turnover, Rockamann said, but “the office exists to support us. If you go to them and seek help, they will do whatever they can to make it possible for you to succeed in ministry and not feel like you’re the only person who understands what it is to want to spend time with teenagers.”

Rockamannn explains her vocation as a gift to walk with teens, remind them of their dignity and value and to remind them they are seen, known and loved by Jesus. “I love my job,” the St. Anselm youth minister said. “The world tells them they need to be a lot of things, do a lot of things and wear a lot of things. I get to remind them constantly of their value. The battle’s already won. They are already loved as they are. I walk with them as they try and live that. Obviously that’s not easy in today’s world.”

The Office of Youth Ministry’s vision statement is to see transformative youth outreach in each parish. By giving to the Annual Catholic Appeal, Catholics help make that happen, Eschelbach said.

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