Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 25, 1999
Youth grow through contact with the poor
Youth ministers challenged to build inner city links
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Young Catholics are called to be apostles in today's society - offering their gifts in serving others, says a Winnipeg youth minister.
Like Christ, young people must use their spiritual and natural gifts to do outreach, to embrace the poor, and to impart dignity and friendship, said Mark Gnutel.
"It's not so much about rushing out there to fix things but to go out and experience (life) and see how God is going to use you."
Gnutel, coordinator of youth ministry for the Yorkton Province of the Ukrainian Catholic Redemp-torist order, gave a workshop on social justice and youth ministry at the Catholic Pastoral Centre Jan. 15-16.
About 25 youth ministers, many of them working with young people at the parish level, attended the workshop. The event was sponsored by the Youth Commission of the Edmonton Archdiocese.
"Serving others is our Christian call, certainly given to us by Christ," Gnutel said in an interview. "Christ was born in a middle class situation and chose to be with the poor and abandoned. He is a role model for humanity, therefore it makes sense to follow in his footsteps."
During the workshop, Gnutel spoke on the need for youth ministers to know their global and local neighbours and gave them a list of local agencies where young people can get involved with the poor.
Agencies recommended by Gnutel include the Marian Centre, the Bissell Centre, Operation Friendship, Kairos House for people with AIDS, L'Arche Association and St. Michael's Extended Health Care Hospital.
These agencies are SERVE apostolates - agencies where the Redemptorists normally send young people in formation to do volunteer work.
SERVE is described as an opportunity for young people to deepen their Christian life through the experience of the Redemptorist lifestyle and their vision of Church.
This vision has a strong emphasis on preaching the Gospel to the most abandoned and especially the poor.
So far 65 young people from across North America have participated in SERVE since the program was established in 1991. This year a session of SERVE will be held in Edmonton at Clement House Aug. 6-20.
SERVE participants, young adults over 19, live and pray in community and do volunteer work in the community.
Gnutel said he has found that young people who immerse themselves in working with the poor end up being transformed by the poor. They teach young people the meaning of hope, dignity, compassion and humility. "People who are very poor really do offer themselves to us."
Youth ministers should use all the resources at their disposal, including the Internet, to raise young people's awareness of social justice issues, Gnutel said.
"They must invite young people to respond to the call of the Gospel in today's society by getting involved with the poor and the downtrodden. That's their job."
Jody Zacharkiw, coordinator of a 13-member youth group in Mundare, said the workshop confirmed her belief that "through social justice activities young people can make a real difference in people's lives and make this world a better place."