Archbishop Hebda’s AYD message: Youth ‘extremely important’ to Church

| October 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

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Archbishop Bernard Hebda will attend his first Archdiocesan Youth Day Oct. 29 at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in RiverCentre in St. Paul. He shared his thoughts about the upcoming event with The Catholic Spirit.

Q. This is your first time at AYD. How do you feel about going?

A. I’m really excited. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about the youth day. While I’ve met a lot of our young people individually and in smaller groups, it hasn’t been as part of anything quite like AYD. So, I’m really eager to see what it’s like and to see how I might be able to add something, to make a contribution, to what I’m sure is already a great day.

Q. How do you hope to connect with the teens who will be there?

A. I really just appreciate the opportunity to be present, to have the opportunity to hear what our young people have to say — whether one-on-one, or in small groups. I hope to spend most of the day there so that I can have opportunities for those kinds of contacts. I also am looking forward to having the opportunity to preach. I think that the Mass is always a beautiful place of encounter. It certainly will give our young people a chance to get to know me a little bit better, particularly in the course of the homily. I will certainly be trying to draw on the insights that I’ve already accumulated from my encounters with youth over the last few months.

Q. What message do you plan to convey to them?

A. I really want to convey that they’re extremely important to the Church, that they’re hugely important to me and to this Archdiocese, that they have so much zeal and excitement and energy to bring to our Church, and that we would be weakened as a community without them. I really hope to invite them to become more involved in their parishes and in youth ministry and to encourage them to not hold back from contributing the wonderful gifts with which God has blessed them.

Q. Do you have any plans for initiatives related to youth here?

A. Not yet, to be honest with you. I’m still in that period where I’m looking to see what else is already going on. I’ve been really impressed with the parish youth programs and youth ministers that I have already encountered, and I feel extremely blessed that the archdiocese has so many possibilities for collaborating locally with NET Ministries (a NET Lifeline Mass has been one of the highlights of my time in the archdiocese!). I recognize that there’s already high quality youth ministry taking place throughout the archdiocese, and I feel really blessed by that. Around the country, it’s all too often a real struggle to engage the youth — but here, it’s already done routinely with such gusto and with such success. I am just looking to be a part of that initiative and to see how it is that I as archbishop might be able to encourage and guide that ministry and contribute to its effectiveness.

Q. What do you think today’s youth need from their local shepherd and the Church?

A. I think certainly they need the reminder that they’re welcome in the Church. All of the pollsters say that hospitality is a huge issue in the Church, that sometimes people don’t feel welcome, or they don’t feel that their gifts are welcome. So, I certainly want to make sure that our youth hear me saying that, in fact, we need them. Not only are they welcome, but we also need them, and we intend to integrate them into every part of our local Church.

Q. How much are our youth on your heart?

A. Very much so. Last year when we engaged in the listening sessions, I think the question of outreach to youth came up in every one of the sessions. It is pretty obvious that the people in the pew are very concerned about what it is that we’re doing to engage our younger generation, whether we’re talking about young adults or whether we’re talking about our youth. So, picking up on that, I know that that has to be a priority for me as well. It’s not just a challenge here in the archdiocese, but really throughout the Church. I know how important it is that we are in harmony with Pope Francis and his plans for the Church, and they certainly involve youth. I had the great privilege of being with him in Krakow this summer for World Youth Day and more than 300 young people from the archdiocese. When we have those kinds of opportunities to share our time together, to share our vision, there is going to be so much vitality that comes out of those discussions on both sides.

Interesting, the Vatican has just announced the theme for the next Synod of Bishops, and it’s actually on outreach to youth. With that in mind, I’m confident that youth ministry is going to be a major thrust, not just here in the archdiocese, but throughout the world.

Q. If you could pray right now for our youth, what would you say to God?

A. I would really ask the Lord to give them the strength that they need to hear his call and to desire to respond to his call, that they might know his love and strive to respond to that love, that the Lord would bless them with the gift of being able to see how he’s calling them to serve their brothers and sisters, how he’s calling them to serve the Church.

More information about Archdiocesan Youth Day

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