By Celine Klosterman
IOWA CITY – Conferences, retreats and service experiences exert the most influence on youths’ faith — so youth ministers should maximize confirmation candidates’ access to those opportunities, Mike Carotta told catechists Jan. 18.
He spoke at St. Patrick Church in Iowa City to help youth ministers assess their progress on the Confirmation Prep Project, an effort he and the National Initiative on Adolescent Catechesis started to enhance Catholics’ experience of confirmation. He introduced the project to the Diocese of Davenport in spring 2013.
Discussing influences on youths’ faith, he shared the results of a survey of students at the 2011 National Catholic Youth Conference. Besides conferences, retreats and service, youths reported that guest speakers, their mother, religious upbringing and Mass impacted their faith more than nearly two dozen other factors.
“How many of these experiences can you integrate into your confirmation prep?” Carotta asked the 23 catechists attending on a snowy morning.
The Confirmation Prep Project highlights data showing that Catholics participate less in Church life following high school. “We have to do a better job of engaging youths so they’ll continue to be part of the institutional Church after getting confirmed,” said Mary Wieser, diocesan director of faith formation.
In May 2013, Carotta asked catechists to choose two to three specific enhancements to apply to their confirmation programs, including “promoting discipleship as the expectation for life after confirmation.”
“It’s little changes that could really make a difference,” Wieser said. “We can’t keep doing the same old things in the same old way.”
Carotta also provided catechists with a survey to administer to their youths to assess the students’ experience of confirmation. “The evaluation opened my eyes to see if the youth really are connecting on the process of confirmation and what they personally feel they are missing,” said Michelle Montgomery, youth minister for parishes in Oxford and Coralville. “I plan to give this evaluation every year to help me grow as a catechist and help the youth be more engaged in the process of confirmation and future classes.”
Participants in the Jan. 18 workshop can get ideas and resources and discuss their ministry with others at www.adolescentcatechesis.org.
On March 14, a representative of the Center for Ministry Development will speak in Iowa City to offer further ideas for preparing adolescents for confirmation. More information on the presentation, “Confirming Young Disciples,” will be available later at www.davenportdiocese.org.