Saint John's Magazine Summer/Fall 2014

Page 10

Service to the Church

and the of the The Saint John’s School of Theology answered the call to “rethink youth ministry” by creating the Youth in Theology and Ministry (YTM) program. How can a graduate school of theology help get high school youth excited about theology and interested in vocations in church leadership? The School of Theology (SOT) responded to this question with a program that brings together high school youth, their adult mentors and CSB/SJU students in a summer experience of college-level theological study, service, justice, prayer and vocational discernment. During the school year, youth do service projects in their home communities. It’s working. YTM began in January 2000, one of 54 programs nationwide funded by the Lilly Endowment of Indianapolis to encourage theological schools and seminaries to rethink youth ministry and to experiment with fresh approaches to forming the next generation of Christians. Saint John’s program is designed to achieve five goals: stimulate excitement about theological learning among Catholic youth; encourage youth to consider ministry as a vocation; engage a diverse range of youth from around the state; develop the knowledge and skills of those who minister to youth; and to become a center for studying youth ministry and vocation. Fifteen years later, 426 high school youth have completed the core YTM program, the Summer Institute. This involves participating with adult mentors from their parishes in a year-long program that begins and ends with a two-week, on-campus summer experience. During the

8

By Vic Klimoski ’67, SOT ’71 school year, youth work on service projects in their home communities. The summer includes classes taught by theology faculty, daily prayer and Eucharist, volunteering with local organizations and community building. “One of our assumptions is that youth have important theological questions,” Patti Watkins, SOT ’08, says Jeff Kaster ’77, director of faith formation, SOT ’84, founder and Holy Name of Jesus Parish. director of YTM. “We demonstrate respect for those questions and help bring them into conversation with the wisdom of the Church. We encourage and teach them to think theologically so that it becomes a life skill.”

LaCroix says his experience as a YTM summer counselor “was the most significant formative experience in my time at Saint John’s.” A second focus of the YTM program is the development of youth ministers like Patti Watkins, SOT ’08, director of faith formation at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Medina, Minn. Some complete an undergraduate Certificate for Youth Ministry while others, like Watkins, enroll in a program that leads to a master’s degree in pastoral ministry.