It was my first week at my first full-time parish / school youth ministry job. I was just settling into my office, clearing out some of the previous YM's stuff, changing the desktop background - you know... the important stuff. I would be lying if I said I was not overwhelmed. I was tasked with serving 2 parishes and 4 schools in 2 communities. However, my new YM zeal and excitement was an easy antidote to my beginner anxiety. Suddenly the secretary paged me and told me I had a call on line 2. I thought it was weird that someone would be calling me already, but I took the call.
"Hi Lance! My name is Louisa and I am a youth minister in Calgary. I just wanted to call and welcome you to the mission!" Oh My Gosh. This is exactly what I needed. She then said something that I didn't think was English. "I am a member of W.C.A.C.Y.M. [wik-ak-uhm]. It stands for the Western Canadian Association of Catholic Youth Ministers. It is a group of youth ministers, teachers, volunteers, and diocesan directors across Western Canada. We meet regularly, support one another, and they provide Professional Development for YMs".
Did I just win the lottery?! I instantly changed from feeling like a segregated youth minister out in the middle of nowhere, to feeling supported and a part of a big community. She invited me to their annual gathering at Star of the North Retreat Center in St. Albert, Alberta the following January. Given my extreme extroversion, I signed up immediately!
The gathering was an awesome peek into what WCACYM truly is. The weekend offered a retreat element, some professional development, as well as a very surprising professional element. They had a very professional meeting as well following Robert's Rules and everything. I was very impressed. This was a group of Youth Ministers and this meeting was something you'd see in a fancy board room somewhere.
This weekend instilled a desire in me to get involved with this organization and was the starting point for me discovering everything WCACYM represents.
One of the things that impressed me the most about WCACYM is its professionalism. Not only were the meetings very professional, as I mentioned above, they strive as an organization to change the image of Youth Ministry to a professional. There was always an underlying purpose of changing the way the Church views Youth Ministry. From encouraging Youth Ministers to dress professionally, encouraging adopting best practices and following guidelines, providing opportunities for Professional Development, offering a certificate program, and advocating for fair and just salaries for Youth Ministers, professionalism was always at the top of the list. As we all know, Youth Ministry is not about pop & chips or only getting butts in the seats. It is about leading youth to encounter Christ. WCACYM wants Youth Ministers to be viewed as professionals and it encourages Youth Ministers to act as such. This was very impressive.
Every WCACYM event I have been to is centered in Christ and provides spiritual formation. Many of the Youth Ministers I have met have had some sort of formation from either the seminary or being a part of a travelling or campus retreat team. Unfortunately, I had not had any of these experiences and WCACYM provided me with some. Through the certificate program which I will talk about later, I was able to figure out my personality type and what Catholic spirituality my personality gravitates towards. I found out I prefer a 50/50 mix of Franciscan and Augustinian spiritualities. I was BLESSED with being exposed to the beautiful traditions of the Byzantine Rite, and had my Catholic world-view expanded by experiencing many different ways to pray including The Way of the Cross, Praise & Worship, Eucharistic Adoration, Lectio Divina, Mass and Divine Liturgy, Prayer Ministry, and so much more. Being able to spend time in prayer and spiritual formation sessions lead and attended by lay people, priests, sisters, monks, and bishops, really communicated the universality of the Church. In addition to all this, WCACYM also offers a Fall Retreat for Youth Ministers so they can start their years off right.
Every summer, WCACYM offers courses to go towards the 3 year Canadian Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies (C.C.Y.M.S.). The certificate consists of 8 courses specially designed for those in ministry with youth in the parish, school, or community settings. It equips leaders with practical tools and techniques needed for creative and comprehensive youth ministry. The eight courses include Principles of Youth Ministry, Practices of Youth Ministry, Foundations of Ministry Leadership, Skills for Christian Leadership, Prayer and Worship, Pastoral Care, Justice & Service, and Evangelization & Catechesis. All of the facilitators are very qualified and are either clergy or lay people holding various Masters degrees in either Divinity or Theology. I pursued the certificate and achieved it! I was even chosen as the "valedictorian"! These were some of the most blessed times of my life.
Over the years, other locations and diocese have offered similar programming to their own YMs online or through smaller local gatherings, but what makes this program so special is the networking and collaboration opportunities.
Along with the Certificate Program, WCACYM also offers Professional Development opportunities for Youth Ministers. Over the years, facilitators from across Canada and the USA have been brought in to facilitate Professional Development for Catholic Youth Ministers. There are opportunities for this at least two times a year and I have taken full advantage of it. These opportunities have enriched the ministries I have served and have helped form the person I am today.
Being a member of WCACYM has not only taught me the importance of collaboration, but it has given me a group of people to collaborate with. Whether it is during the Summer Seminars collaborating on a year plan, individual lesson plan, event plan, or something outside of Summer Seminar like a video or blog post, WCACYM has been an incredible resource for me as a Youth Minister and now future educator. WCACYM also facilitates collaboration and sharing of resources, ideas, discussion of hot topics, and so much more. I have collaborated on ministry projects and ideas, YouTube videos, blog posts, and other personal projects with the people I have met in WCACYM. Above all, this organization has instilled in me the importance of collaboration.
The way WCACYM had the biggest impact on me was the community. There were so many times where I was able to talk to another Youth Minister about a challenge I was facing and was met with "I get it" or "I have been there" - "Here's what I did". When Youth Ministers come together, they are able to talk about the challenges they all face, not in a complaining or gossipy way, but with a sense of support and collegiality. Issues that every Youth Minister faces like how to address your parish council, how to approach things with my pastor, how to advocate for yourself, how to keep the secretary and the caretakers happy! ;). The WCACYM events, especially the Summer Seminar, gives Youth Ministers an opportunity to spend time with people in the trenches doing the same things they are, in other parts of the country. The support is amazing. As Thomas Merton puts it, no man is an island. No Youth Minister should be either.
That first phone call I mentioned at the beginning of this article was in 2009. That first event I went to was January 2010. It is now August 12, 2016 and I still talk to a lot of the people I met there. I owe some of my best friends to WCACYM! If you ever get a chance to go to a WCACYM event or a Summer Seminar for the certificate. Please take it! If money is an issue, there is a Scholarship program available. There are also other organizations (KofC, CWL, Parish, Diocese, etc) that are more than willing to support your pursuit of these great things.
I owe many things to the people I met in WCACYM. I am the man I am today because of my time I spent with this wonderful group. Now that I am entering into my Education career, I am hoping to get back involved with WCACYM as their PD is very valuable to educators as well.
WCACYM will always hold a special place in my heart.
Please consider getting involved. You'll be glad you did!
My name is Lance Rosen and #iamwcacym.
I’ve always had trouble transitioning home after awesome experiences. On great weekend retreats as a young adult, I would spend the week after not really sure what to do. I would be a bit moody, and often find myself in conflict with a loved one. One of the things this did over the years was cause me to build up emotional barriers, to make these experiences easier to deal with, both while being there, and then again when coming home.
World Youth Day won’t let me do that.
The thing about it, is that it’s just so big. I reflected on the multitude of blessings in ‘To be Blessed’, and I can’t stop thinking about them. There are Catholics who go on once in a lifetime sorts of pilgrimages for just one of the opportunities we had in Krakow, and we ran into so many that I lost count! With any experience like this, there’s the temptation to try to recreate it, re-capture it, and re-make it at home. I know this temptation. I remember back when I was a fairly young youth minister, I took a particularly powerful experience of praise and worship, and tried to force it on a group of young people who had other expectations and spiritual needs, and without getting into too many details I can safely say it was probably the worst evening of ministry in my career. I was trying to forcibly jam my past emotions and experiences into a present that didn’t call for them. Even worse, I was doing so for my own satisfaction.
Coming home, I’m faced with the same temptation, to force everyone I spend time with to sit through endless stories, videos, and photos of the experience, without really asking if they are interested, or if this will make a difference, or to post endless World Youth Day follow ups on social media when really all I’m doing for myself is trying to keep the immediate experiences of the journey fresh.
None of this is to say that I mean that everything should just go on, business as usual, with nothing different in my life. That would be a waste. In fact, one of the most challenging parts of the experience was hearing Pope Francis (I’m going to paraphrase) command us to go home and not waste this amazing opportunity we have had the gift of participating in. When you sit there, in a crowd of 2.5 million other Catholics, and the Pope himself tells you not to go home and do the same old things, and to see ‘couch potatoes’ in the faith, it’s a pretty big kick in the pants. Not only that, but we aren’t coming home totally the same people. Karen and I talked about it on the flight, about how we were going to live when we got home. How would we deal with any backlash on social media after being more open about our faith in a public setting than either of us has before? How would we find or create ways to give and receive mercy at home?
The last revelation I’d like to share here, is that the answer is within the experience. Everything at World Youth Day was so big. The crowds, the passion and joy of the pilgrims, the experience with our families in Days in the Diocese, the ‘celebrities’ (whether the relics of Saints, the Pope, or the big name Catholics like Bishop Barron). It’s impossible not to recognize that I could never recreate the fullness of the experience at home… I’m just too small for that. I don’t mean it in a negative way, simply in a pragmatic one. We were standing in a crowd that was bigger than anything I’ve ever experienced, and still, the 2.5 million of us still only made up about ⅕ of 1% of the entire Catholic Church. And yet, among all of these people, the bigness of what we were celebrating was undeniable, and keeps popping up over and over.
Rand’s testimony about her life in Syria, this story of Christina Shabo, an Iraqi refugee, born under a tree in a refugee camp, who was at World Youth Day and prays regularly for those who have killed some of her family members and destroyed her home, or Bishop Barron’s reflection on World Youth Day, calling the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the celebration he presided over “one of the great experiences of my 30 years as a priest”.
While at times being such a small piece of such incredible ‘bigness’ is overwhelming, it’s also incredibly empowering. Among this crowd of little building blocks that each of us is, huge things are taking place. Among this crowd there are Catholics whose tiny actions, like Christina praying for Isis each day in her Chaplet of Divine Mercy, are bringing a grace and goodness to the world that are so much greater than any one of us, or even all of us together can accomplish. Perhaps the lives of St. Maximillian Kolbe and of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati illustrate this better than any. Kolbe was only one of millions killed at the hands of the Nazis, yet his one small act (small in the scale of what was happening, not in the sense that sacrificing one’s life is a small thing) saved others’ lives and brought enormous grace into one of the worst places in human history. Pier Giorgio’s life was not comprised of great and grand actions. It was his small ones, bringing his friends to Mass before climbing a mountain, giving his train fare to someone in need and walking home, spending a few hours with the sick, simply being joyful for his life and using his gifts, that led to his Beatification. His individual actions were so small, that his parents had no idea that there would be thousands of poor and sick showing up to his funeral, and similarly, the crowds of individuals who came to celebrate his life had no idea he was a Frassati (a powerful and influential family). Yet in all this smallness, God made his life into a great light for the rest of the world.
In our day to day lives it is easy to want the big. As a teacher I want to be popular, I want my students to be the best, I want great test scores. As a youth minister I want crowds at youth group, I want to speak to large groups. As a musician I want to be popular, I want to lead the choir. As a blogger I want thousands to read my words. In this light, I am so grateful for the smallness of being an individual at World Youth Day, because it is such a wonderful and uplifting reminder. None of us are in this world to be ‘big’, but rather to do the small things God has empowered us to do, and let Him make them great. I’ll end with a line from Christina Shabo’s story: “As powerless as you feel as an individual, when you connect with other people who have that same passion that have that same desire, God works wonders”.
- Ryan Fox
You may or may not know, but today (August 6) is Katie and my 5th wedding anniversary.
Now, before you start tossin' the "5 YEARS - THAT'S IT?" and "You just wait until you're married 30 years"... I will kindly ask you to refrain from that because ALL WE'VE BEEN MARRIED FOR IS 5 YEARS! The length of time is out of our control, so relax.
I am pretty big on self-reflection, and I found it fitting to do so on our 5th anniversary of entering into wedded bliss. Here is a list of things I have learned in the last 5 years:
1. It's not all about me.
As much as I would like it to be... it's not. From the moment we exchanged our vows up until now, I have been in a constant state of growth and challenge to focus outward. My ego doesn't really appreciate it, but who cares. I like to think that the days of "do you not know who I am?!?!" and "that's not the way I would do it" are behind me, but alas... this is not the case. But I am trying!
2. My wife is a SAINT!
Over the past 5 years of marriage, the following things have happened:
This is quite the list. My crap alone would be enough for me to go crazy. But, she bears it, faces it with class, and crushes it! She bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things... Sound familiar? Yeah, she's that loving.
3. Mutual Faith is Important!
I know you're probably thinking "well DUH!"... but sometimes it doesn't happen. I am so blessed to have a spouse that I can share my faith with.
On the other hand, one can take this for granted even within a Catholic marriage. I must admit, there have been times when I was afraid to take the lead and be the 'Priest of my Domestic Church'. But, again, it was an ego thing (See #1). Along with praying together, it is very important for one to continue working on one's own individual faith. If not, jealousy can set in. I remember one time when I wasn't feeling super close to God and I assumed that Katie wasn't either. I went so far as to sit her down and ask her how she was doing in her faith. I found out very quickly that I was the one with the problem! (See #1). Although I was so adamant about us having great individual relationships with God before we entered into a relationship and then marriage, after marriage you STILL HAVE TO DO IT!
4. Getting married doesn't change anything.
You are still the same broken, sinful, forgetful, human being you were before you were married. Marriage isn't some magical switch that God flips as soon as you put that ring on that makes you perfect. I romanticized marriage. I quickly found out that all of the crap and baggage I was dealing with before marriage was right there with me on that altar. The biggest thing was that now I was bringing all that into a marriage with someone who also had some stuff to deal with. We all do! We had / have to work on this together for the good of our marriage. Just like when you remove an ice cube from a glass of ice water and another one quickly floats to the top, I am constantly finding new things I need to deal with. This leads nicely into my next point...
5. There's Beauty in Brokenness
A while back, I wrote a blog post called Beauty in Brokenness. In it I shared how when you finally accept the fact that you are broken, you can experience such freedom because you don't have to spend so much time and energy trying to be perfect. You don't have to try and convince the world you're perfect. You don't have to convince God you're perfect. Marriage is the arena in which this skill gets perfected. As a couple wise men told me once, marriage is your path to sainthood. Sainthood communicates sanctity. Sanctity comes through purification, prayer, and sacrifice. The road is not easy, but it the married person's path to sainthood. Accepting your brokenness before God and your spouse is another step on that path.
6. NFP DOES WORK!
We were married on August 6, 2011. Our first child was born on November 26, 2015. Many times throughout the first four years of our marriage, the question was raised (both to our faces and behind our backs) whether we were using birth control or contraception. There were many who speculated we were. We are living proof that if you follow the rules, NFP works. Now, if you must know, we use the Billings Method.
Oh get over it...
I love you Katie with all of my heart. Thank you for inspiring me to become the best version of myself every day.
It is with great joy and gratitude that we thank you all for the past year. That's right, today is our 1 YEAR LAUNCHIVERSARY! Thank you all for your continued support and prayers. We look forward to this next year and the great things we have planned! God bless you and thanks again!
- Team Silversmith