Thursday, April 28, 2016
Second Catholic Bishop Signs Missional Agreement With Young Life
On Monday, April 25, the Most Reverend William Francis Medley became the second U.S. Catholic bishop to enter into a collaborative agreement with Young Life to reach a world of kids together. Nearly one year after a similar agreement was reached in Brownsville, TX, the Diocese of Owensboro, which covers the western third of Kentucky, acknowledged “the simplicity and purity of the mission of Young Life” and highlighted Young Life’s methods – going where teens are, building real relationships, and earning the right to be heard – as inherent to the Catholic tradition and essential components of the new evangelization.
“This agreement is so important,” noted Melinda Prunty, Director of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Owensboro. “We might do well with those kids who come to us, but we need help reaching those kids we don’t even know are out there.” Melinda played a critical role in the nearly three-year process that culminated in Monday’s signing. “We have so much to learn from the deeply relational approach to Young Life’s ministry,” she continued. “This is about introducing kids to Jesus and helping them grow in their faith. I pray that our Catholic clergy and youth ministers see the broader vision and walk side-by-side with Young Life.”
Chris Dillbeck, the local Young Life area director in Owensboro, has been a tireless force for bridge-building since he started Young Life there in 2012. His winsome spirit and ecumenical vision forged relationships that transcended denominational affiliation. One former youth minister in the diocese, Danny May, tells the story with great joy and wonder. “Three years ago, Chris walked right into my office, introduced himself and to the ministry of Young Life. From our first conversation, I could see that he was building bridges with the Catholic community.” Since then, the two have become good friends and partners in the mission to reach lost kids. “Young Life enabled me to reach students in the public schools that I would not have had without Young Life. That’s why I volunteered to help Young Life freshmen orientations and club events. That’s why my wife and I support Young Life to this day.”
Dillbeck believes this is more than a practical agreement to reach kids. “This is another step in unifying the Bride of Christ, the Church. I truly believe this pleases the Lord.” He also hopes it will draw more Catholics into a permanent state of “going out”, putting everything in a “missionary key,” as Pope Francis has exhorted. “This agreement opens the door for Catholics to be a part of this dynamic mission, and gives us a template for partnership moving forward,” he said.
Paula Schmidt, Coordinator of Religious Education at St. Pius X in Calvert City, could not be more excited about this new spirit of partnership. “When I first heard about Young Life coming to Kentucky, my first and only thought was ‘AWESOME’!” Paula was raised Catholic, attended Mass with her parents, and eventually got confirmed. “But my experience with Young Life helped me see my faith in a new light,” Paula says. After attending many weekly Young Life clubs, she went to summer camp at Frontier Ranch in Colorado. “Young Life planted a seed of faith and helped it to grow. That same faith is now flourishing as I serve the Church today!”
Brett Hersma, Young Life Senior Vice President over the Midwest Division, attended the historic signing in Owensboro and concluded by saying, “This agreement helps to formalize what we already believe – we all care deeply about kids, and we want them to be alive in their faith. It’s important for more communities to see that Young Life and the Catholic Church are making strides in working together for the sake of Christ and kids.” Our prayer is the same as that which Jesus prayed on the night before he was betrayed, that we may be one, so the world would know Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Every kid, everywhere, for eternity.
Chris Dillbeck (left), Michael Havercamp, Bishop Medley, Brett Hersma, and Jack Nikcevich