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.”
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
 Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), 24.