Thursday, April 23, 2015

Young Life and Catholic Diocese Sign Historic Missional Agreement

This week marks an exciting new chapter in the relationship between Young Life and the Catholic Church. On Tuesday, the Most Reverend Daniel Flores, bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas signed a collaborative agreement with Young Life to “Reach a World of Kids” together – introducing teens to Jesus Christ, helping them grow in their faith, and guiding them back to their respective faith communities. This groundbreaking event represents the first time in history that a Catholic diocese and Young Life have formally united to share in the great call to reach “every kid, everywhere” together with the gospel.

In his address to the assembly of diocesan priests (numbering nearly 100), Bishop Flores noted, “We’re breaking some ground that hasn’t been broken in the relationship between the Catholic Church and Young Life. I’m very grateful that the Lord has given us this chance to move forward.” His comments were received warmly by a presbyterate grounded in a long legacy of missionary zeal.  

While the bishop acknowledged the significance of the signed agreement, his remarks made it clear that the enduring merits of this relationship will flow from its ability to impact the lives of kids. “There are a great number of young people in our diocese that may have a vague sense of faith, but are yet unconnected,” Bishop Flores explained. “These kids are vulnerable.”

The bishop then challenged his priests, with the warmth and collegiality of the Good Shepherd, to take on the mantle of their missionary call. He continued:

We as a diocese need to be more proactive in attending to the great number of young people who are unconnected to anything. This is the great challenge here. They are lost. They need to hear that there’s somebody to help them get connected to the Lord and to the Church.

“That’s why I think this relationship [with Young Life] is so important,” Bishop Flores reflected. “Young Life is an organization that has a long history in the United States, announcing the kerygma and, through a process of friendship and accompaniment, getting teens connected back to their faith tradition.” A vision was cast of the hand-and-glove relationship between Young Life and the Catholic Church, each contributing something essential, yet working together as one body in Christ.

The Diocese of Brownsville recognized Young Life’s unique position to reach lost teenagers, those who are disconnected from and disinterested in church. But what happens after the faith of those teens is rekindled? Where do they go from there? Bishop Flores noted, “We can’t just say to kids, ‘The Catholic parish is over there, so go,’ because they may go and they may knock on the door but they may not get a very welcome reception." He went on to stress the need for Catholic leaders working in the mission of Young Life to serve as bridges back to the Church. "As the Holy Father insists, and this is just the Gospel, ‘Evangelization happens when you know somebody who can receive and welcome you, and then accompany you as you become integrated into the faith community.’”

I’m immensely grateful for the ecumenical acumen and personal friendship of Bishop Flores and his diocesan staff. Their pioneering spirit and missionary tenacity corresponds to the primary focus of Pope Francis as he leads the Catholic Church to “get involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; bridge distances, and touch the suffering flesh of Christ in others.”[1]

This is the call of the new evangelization. Today begins a new era for Young Life and the Catholic Church to embrace this sacred call together.

Pete Johnson (left), Regional Director for Young Life's Lone Star Region
Most Rev. Daniel E. Flores (center), Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, TX
Michael Havercamp (right), YL National Liaison to the Catholic Church

[1] Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), 24.


  1. Michael and others involved: We are grateful for your groundbreaking work in this regard. Looking forward to further deepening our relationships between the Catholic Church and Young Life in our community as well.

  2. Kirk, I know your heart on this and I truly appreciate it. I would love to see some of the same things develop in Green Bay. I'm here to serve you!

    1. Michael, we will have to get some time in GB for you in the fall.

  3. so encouraging! Aslan is on the move!

  4. I pray that this becomes a trend! i am very encouraged by this and hope more bishops see the wisdom of encouraging and contributing to the work of Young Life in their dioceses. The statistical trends certainly call for this type of creative collaboration. So glad you are dedicated to this, Michael!

  5. What a beautiful vision of partnership for the Kingdom! Thank you Michael and Pete for your leadership in this new endeavor!

  6. Wow, I used to work as a leader in YL when I was a Catholic YM 20 years ago. Never thought I would see something so wonderful happen. Good on you guys to get a formal framework for this! It will open doors on both sides and provide more opportunities!

  7. I am curious about the implications this will have in communities. The area I live in (in Michigan) has had an active YL for many years while the local Catholic parish has struggled in the area of Youth ministry. The Catholic parents almost have a feeling of guilt in sending their teens to the "Protestant" youth group. How does this address work to bridge that gap?

    1. In Brownsville, parish staff and YL leaders will work together to reach kids and reconnect them back to the parish. We can't simply have YL folks do the "outreach" and then "point" kids back to the parishes. I often say that kids are not like lamps - you can't simply unplug them from one outlet and plug them into another outlet! We need to honor those relationships that constitute their social network, bring the gospel there, and walk with them as they mature into intentional disciples. This includes walking with them as they re-integrate back into the life of the parish. We need Catholic leaders who will be there at every step of the process. And like Pope Francis has said, it's not like we're asking the 99 at the parish to reach the 1. "In today's secular culture, it's the 99 we're missing. We only have the 1!"

  8. wonderful and exciting Michael - thanks for your leadership!

  9. Awesome work on behalf of everyone! Many prayers as we go forward :)

    Blessings & Peace,


Thanks so much for your input. I pray that this dialogue may be a blessing to you personally and to the ministry you exercise in Christ.