Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 26, 2009
Encounter through youth ministry changed her life
Teacher from St. Joe's High will witness at Nothing More Beautiful
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Youth ministry is a vital part of the Catholic Church and it needs more time, money and resources, says a local teacher who will speak at the first Nothing More Beautiful session of 2009-10.
Youth ministry helps young people to get to know their faith in a personal way and sustains them spiritually, says Lydia Cristini, a religion teacher at St. Joseph's High.
Cristini, 31, was born and raised in Edmonton and has been a part of youth or young adult ministry since her teens.
She has served with Our Lady of Victory Camp, the Newman Club at the University of Alberta and NET (National Evangelization Teams) in the U.S., Canada and Ireland.
Those ministries not only gave her an opportunity to share her faith, but also taught her what it means to live out Catholicism daily.
"My continued involvement with youth ministry kind of was a sustaining source in my life, in my spiritual life," she said in a recent interview at St. Joseph's High.
"So despite what was going on in my life and whether I felt close to God or I didn't feel close to God I knew I could go to the youth group and I could find other young people around me who also believed in God and could support me in my faith."
Cristini will be the witness at the first Nothing More Beautiful at St. Joseph's Basilica Oct. 29. Archbishop Richard Smith will be the main speaker. The theme for the second year of the archdiocesan program for the new evangelization is Encountering Anew the Beauty of Christ.
She plans to talk about how her relationship with God has shaped her life. "I will touch on the different decisions that I've made, experiences that I've had and how God has worked through them and revealed himself to me through them."
God first revealed himself to Cristini through youth ministry. In 1993 Good Shepherd, her parish during her teen years, established a paid youth ministry.
The parish hired a youth coordinator who in turn created a youth group "and that's how I came to know my faith in a personal way," Cristini recalled.
A PERSONAL WAY
The group got together once a week in the evening and there was usually a talk or catechesis and participants played games and had some discussion time. It was simple but effective.
"Through my experiences in that youth group, I came to know God in a personal way," Cristini said. "All of a sudden, my faith kind of came alive."
The youth ministry changed many young people in the parish, Cristini recalled.
"Young people are searching for something during their adolescent years," she said. "What we have is such a wonderful opportunity within the Catholic Church to present them with the truth. And really that's what they are searching for even though they don't know it."
A lot of times youth don't seem to enjoy going to Church partly because they don't know what it is all about and why we do the things that we do, Cristini pointed out. "They don't have a vocabulary to really kind of get in there."
But she said youth ministry can remedy that by educating young people in the faith and getting them in touch with God in a personal way.
LIT A FIRE
"Most ministry is personal in nature; people come to know God through other people around them and good youth ministers are able to reach the kids at their level and establish that relationship with them and introduce the youth to God and step out of the way," Cristini said.
"My conclusion about youth ministry in general is that it's a vital part of our Church and that it is important to put time and money behind that endeavour. The chaplaincy programs in the schools are extremely important as well."
Cristini said her involvement in her parish youth group catechized her. "I learned a lot through it and then as well it sustained my relationship with God. It's kind of like this steady support that I always could turn to. And then, in turn, it kind of lit a fire within me to be part of youth ministry."
Cristini, who now attends Mass at the chapel of St. Joseph's College, still volunteers with Our Lady of Victory Camp as team leader and catechist and is the archdiocesan contact person for NET Ministries. As a religion teacher, she does youth ministry in the classroom.
"I'm so grateful to those people that established (youth) ministries in the 1980s and 1990s that directly benefitted my life and changed my life completely," Cristini says. "Like if I had never been in youth ministry, I would not have volunteered (with NET) and I might not have become a teacher, who knows, right?
"I just want to say I'm grateful that there were people who were willing to put the time and money and the effort (into youth ministry) and I hope and pray that there are people who continue to see that as important enough to put in all of that. It's necessary."
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