The Archdiocese of New York has reached an agreement with Young Life’s Northeastern Division to establish collaborative efforts in Christ-centered outreach events and programs for youths. The accord, which follows a pilot effort that began in 2018, was signed this month amid much hope and anticipation for spiritual and social betterment in the lives of young people.
Young Life, founded in 1941, is an ecumenical Christian fellowship organization based in Colorado Springs, Colo. It focuses on young people in middle school, high school and college, offering weeklong summer camps and weekend winter retreats, as well as large and small fellowship gatherings.
The archdiocesan point persons in this collaborative effort include Father Vincent Druding, parochial vicar at Holy Cross parish in the Bronx; Carmen Leon, secondary schools administrator with the archdiocesan Schools Superintendent’s Office; and Juliemarie Hernandez, youth minister of St. Anthony of Padua parish in the Bronx.
“I would describe it as one hand washing the other; there are (staff) resources that Young Life and the archdiocese have that can help each other,” Ms. Hernandez told Catholic New York this week. “The pope wants us to reach those in the peripheries. What Young Life brings…is the fact that it allows us, the Catholic Church, to get into public schools…This partnership allows us to reach more kids, to reach that spirituality gap that they have in the schools.”
Ms. Hernandez is also the youth minister of St. Augustine-Our Lady of Victory parish in the Bronx. Through the collaborative agreement, she is now also a Young Life Bronx Region mission staffer. “I personally volunteer at a public school, and just this past weekend I had one of my students receive (Jesus) in a retreat, while another seven went up to camp and basically had an encounter with Christ.”
Ms. Leon told CNY that the collaborative agreement “is a wonderful opportunity to open the door to bringing more youths to Christ. I was invited (to help) at camp last August (Lake Champion, a Young Life Camp in Sullivan County). It was a beautiful atmosphere. You felt Jesus in the room.” Ms. Leon is now also a Young Life Bronx Region prayer coordinator and board member.
In a release from Young Life’s Northeastern Division, Cardinal Dolan was quoted as saying that he looks forward to having the archdiocese “become very engaged” with the ministry of Young Life.
Paul Coty, vice president of field ministries for Young Life’s Northeastern Division, said the agreement “will make it easier to develop similar collaborations all over the Northeast. Working with the Catholic Church is clearly a gospel mandate.”
In addition, the release noted, “Young Life began working with Catholic schools and parishes in the archdiocese in 2018 (as a pilot effort). Having Young Life staff be intentional about building friendships with Catholic clergy and Catholic school administrators allowed the ministry to continue doing contact work during the pandemic as many Catholic parishes and Catholic schools stayed open.”
Msgr. Joseph LaMorte, vicar general and moderator of the curia for the archdiocese, was quoted as saying, “The archdiocese hopes others will see our example of working together and will be moved to take the same steps where they minister.”
The Young Life collaborative agreement with the Archdiocese of New York follows similar agreements signed with three other Catholic dioceses in the past eight years, the Young Life release said. Young Life signed an agreement with the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, in 2014; the Diocese of Owensboro, Ky., in 2016; and the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., in 2017.
Michael Havercamp, director of the Young Life Catholic Relations office, called the signed agreement “a resounding chorus of praise for unity in the Body of Christ.”