Parishes looking to increase youth engagement following Post-Confirmation Summit

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PROVIDENCE — The Diocese of Providence has released a series of recommendations to parishes seeking to increase their engagement of Catholic youth based on the results of the Post-Confirmation Summit, a gathering of young people and parish leaders convened by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul last April.

The recommendations follow a months-long process of study and consultation by the summit committee of the challenges facing parishes as they minister to youth, particularly those young people who have completed their formal religious education following the sacrament of confirmation. More than 75 parishes participated in the summit and the regional meetings that followed, exchanging ideas and offering input on how to best engage young people in the Church.

“The recommendations and resources that have come out of the Summit have the potential of being very helpful to our parishes; they can make a positive impact on our ministry with youth, before and after confirmation,” said Bishop Tobin.

“I hope that our pastors, catechists and youth ministers will redouble their efforts to reach out to our young people and incorporate them fully in the life of the Church.”

The summit committee identified seven key priorities for engaging Catholic youth from the more than 1,500 suggestions gathered during the summit, distributing them to parish leaders and summit participants by mail and email this week. The “Summit Seven,” as the priorities are titled, include recommendations such as pooling parish resources to create multi-parish activities, and involving parents as well as teenagers in service opportunities and communicating with youth through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The recommendations were based on the direct input of summit participants as well as the results of a survey of more than 2,100 youth and young adults conducted throughout the Diocese of Providence last year.

Reflecting on the results of the summit, Louise Dussault, director of the Office of Catholic Youth Ministry and a member of the summit committee, said feedback ranged from the need to better integrate technology into sacramental preparation to insight into the needs and desires of today’s youth. Among the most important results of the survey, she said, was the realization of the increasingly important role of parents in modeling the faith for their teenage children. Survey results indicated that as societal pressures have driven many families further apart, young people are expressing a strong desire for the sometimes absent involvement of parents and actively seek out opportunities to participate in family activities related to the faith.

“I think the summit has also shown us that with the change in the importance of families in the life of adolescents, particularly the influence that families have on the faith life of adolescents, that our need to support parents as they raise children in the faith is ever more pressing,” said Dussault. “I think we need to be ever more sensitive and cognizant that it’s no longer segregating populations in many ways but ministering to families as a whole.”

Other outcomes included the reaffirmation of the Eucharist as the high point of individuals’ experience of the faith and the importance of retreats and pilgrimages in forming young people for the sacraments.

“[Retreats and pilgrimages] are important spiritual experiences that need to be fostered as Catholics. My opinion is that if you don’t foster it when young people are being formed in the faith, and if you don’t give them a positive experience, they’re never going to do it as an adult,” said Dussault.

Close to 300 people participated in the Post-Confirmation Summit, the first gathering of its kind in the Diocese of Providence. The complete results of the summit as well as the results of the youth and young adult survey are available on the diocesan website at www.dioceseofprovidence.org. The summit committee also plans to issue a semi-annual bulletin of activities and opportunities in the diocese to help parishes act on the recommendations of the summit and better engage parish youth.