Empowering a new generation of leaders


By Edgardo Juarez

 Today’s youth will be the leaders of tomorrow. Pope Francis calls us to accompany the youth in their vocational discernment and life journey. It is within the mission of the Ministry with Young Catholics to provide opportunities for young people to discover their God given potential and use their gifts and talents to build the kingdom of God in their communities. 

 Some would say that, as pleasant as it sounds, the empowerment of youth is easier said than done. How can parents, youth ministers, community leaders and teachers foster this sense of ownership and leadership in young people? Others might even wonder how we can put our future into the hands of teens, whose ideas can at times seem to be focused on the latest technology devices or the number of followers in their social media platforms.

 The answer is simple - we simply let them “do.” We let them dream and think. We give them the space and tools to collaborate and problem solve, brainstorm and reflect. We empower them to believe that their voice matters without judging or criticizing their ideas; we give them a chance. We echo the words of Pope Francis, “Dear young people, the Church expects great things of you and your generosity. Do not be afraid, aim high.” 

 We remind them that in the same way God called the prophet Jeremiah, He, too, calls them by their name despite their age, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you… Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak” (Jeremiah 1:5 -7). Most importantly we call upon the Holy Spirit to guide us in this journey of true accompaniment. 

 In July we re-launched our summer youth leadership training called YCAST (Young Catholics Actively Serving Today) previously known as YCLT. More than 80 young participants from across our Diocese gathered in Big Bear July 18-22 to respond to their baptismal call and prepare themselves to become future leaders. In this intense week of training, YCAST participants learned new skills, put those skills into action, and explored what it means to live in community. Furthermore, participants learned about leadership styles, planning skills, Christian leadership and community building, among others topics. 

 They also had the opportunity learn from each other, prayed together and participated in daily Mass. Although it was an intense week, participants had the opportunity to fellowship and enjoyed various recreational summer camp activities. Bishop Gerald Barnes celebrated the sending forth liturgy at the end of the week. He reminded the future young leaders that just like with Jeremiah; God’s plan for their life is full of Hope. He also encouraged them to go back to their communities and share the light of Christ with their peers and everyone they encounter.

 To witness hope moving with our young people, follow us on Instagram and Facebook @SBYoungCatholics. 

Edgardo Juarez is the Director of the Diocesan Office With Young Catholics.