New program takes teens 'On the Road' to discipleship

Thu, Jun 21st 2018 11:30 am
Staff Reporter

The Diocese of Buffalo is inviting teenagers to begin their journey to discipleship.

Teens who have completed ninth grade to those who have just completed 12th grade are asked to consider spending five days this summer at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora learning from peers and mentors what it means to be a missionary disciple. On the Road, held Sunday July 15 to Friday, July 20, is designed to equip teens with the tools to enthusiastically share their stories of faith with their family, friends and all those they encounter. Participants will learn more about the Catholic tradition, try new types of prayer, and better appreciate how they fit into their own community.

"The focus is missionary discipleship, with the hope of connecting youth to their encounters with Jesus, to understanding what that means for them, to have head learning - the intellectual pieces of understanding the faith - in order to move into that heart space and to live it out actively. Then to share the faith with others," said Amanda Castonguay, ministry development coordinator, designer and director of On The Road. "It really is about moving towards. You want to be in community, you want to be living out the life where you are. It's almost that next step. You know your faith, you've encountered Jesus, what do you do with that? Where do you go from there?"

Through a series of large group sessions and small group peer talks, this program will offer some learning experiences to deepen that understanding, as well as explain how to share one's personal story of faith. Participants will learn how to write and deliver a witness talk, and learn how to pray with and for others.

Mentors will be "Youth guides" young adults or adults who are motivated to spend a week walking with the teens, helping them facilitate conversation, help with witness talks, work one-on-one with them. They are chaperones, who will serve as disciples themselves. Training sessions in June.

"We're looking for people, whether young adults or adults who live out that sense of mission and discipleship in their day-to-day life. They could be connected to a previous ministry such as Youth Board or Campus Ministry. We're really just looking for those people who convey what it means to be a Catholic in our day and age, and can support teens in doing that for themselves," said Kaitlin Garrity, adolescent catechesis specialist, for the Office of Lifelong Faith Formation, co-director of On The Road.

Participants will be in two different small groups during the week. One group will be together during daily activities where conversations take place. The other will share cabin time, when they can reflect on what has been discussed at the end of the day. "In some ways, a supportive group in the process. That time and space for peers to share stories with one another," explained Castonguay.

The program, designed by Castonguay, shares some common ground with the commonly used model for Christian initiation.

"It looks at the four pillars of formation, which are human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral. So, looking at all those ways that we develop as people and try to include those elements within the model," said Castonguay. "It also has four levels. There will be theological conversation that works strictly on discipleship and what it means to actively live out the call and the truth. Then there are some human skills. Everybody needs that time to work on how we are human and what that looks like for us as individuals stepping into the process. And then sessions on spirituality, both very prayer focused; participating in prayer, as well as learning about different types of spirituality and prayer practices."

Staff members of the departments of Youth & Young Adult Ministry and Lifelong Faith Formation will lead the sessions, with youth guides overseeing small groups.
Castonguay and Garrity are trying to reach all different personality types.

"We're hoping this is a program that helps the person who wants to sit and absorb. It helps the person who needs to write and be creative. It helps the person who needs something active to do. With youth, the way they interact with God looks like a lot of different things. This program aims to touch on each of those things in a variety of ways," said Castonguay.

The program has been in the works for about two years. It was one of the subjects discussed when Castonguay was hired eight months ago.

"Bishop Malone is very motivated in helping youth to gain skills and experience as evangelizers," she said. "He strongly believes in educating the young Church. He has a history as an educator himself, so he was the driving force in the beginning of the conversation. It's also coming out of both the Youth & Young Adult Ministry Department and Lifelong Faith Formation Department. The big questions was, what is it that youth need to be prepared to live out discipleship and to be able to share the message of Jesus?"

She compares it to the Youth Department's long-standing Christian Leadership Institute, noting, "CLI is more leadership focused. This is more personal and person-to person focused."

There is a $99 per person registration fee, with a special pricing for the pilot year based on the generosity of a special, limited diocesan subsidy. This includes tuition, room and board, and materials. Registration deadline is June 22.  Brochures available for print and information for youth ministers and parish leaders can be found at their website

For more information contact Amanda Castonguay at 716-847-8793 or  

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