Catholic Herald staff
High school leaders from across the diocese gathered for a Friendship in Christ Leadership Weekend, Sept. 5-7, at CrossWoods Camp, Mason.
Designed to continue the Discipleship U theme of training Catholic youth to be leaders, the weekend featured discussions, activities and service projects.
Megan Noll, diocesan director of Marriage, Family and Youth, said a visit from Bishop Peter Christensen was one of the highlights.
“The bishop came and spent time with the high-schoolers, and we celebrated Mass and had dinner together,” she said. “He just shared a little bit about his life as a young person, and it was encouraging the leaders in making good decisions now.”
“I loved when we just had that really long time period to pray and just worship,” said Ashland teen Dilan Wells. “I loved getting to talk to the bishop, too!”
“What I really liked is that the bishop was able to come and answer questions that we had about our faith and share with us his experiences while growing in his faith,” added Kristin Pierce, a student from Glidden.
Guest speaker was Ryan O’Hara, director of mission resources at Saint Paul’s Outreach, a youth and campus ministry based at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul.
Noll said O’Hara encouraged youth to develop a personal relationship with God; keep their prayer lives a priority; go public with their faith and, against all odds, persevere.
His objective, she added, was “helping them grow in community and fellowship with one another” and teaching them “how to build disciples as well as become disciples.”
The last Discipleship U weekend, held in April, focused on helping teens develop stronger prayer lives.
“This one was more on community,” Noll explained, “the theological community,” which includes “being one with God and the Communion of Saints.”
High school and the transition to college are difficult times, and Noll hopes students will surround themselves with people who support their spiritual journey. Over the course of the weekend, one teen’s fear of heights on the zipline gave the others an opportunity to demonstrate that support; Noll saw a more profound meaning in the moment.
“I just think the parallel of that is pretty awesome – going to the height of your faith,” she said. “You can’t do it without people or God.”
Service and teamwork were also weekend themes. Many attendees had been to Extreme Faith Camp in years gone by, and they gave back to CrossWoods by digging trenches, putting down gravel and cleaning up the grounds.
“That was intentional, in particular, because to build community, it’s helpful to do something together,” explained Noll.
Teens were also able to share their experiences during small-group discussion.
“They were pretty honest about some of the challenges, and how difficult it is to make God the priority,” Noll said. “It’s encouraging to see young people giving up a weekend to do something faith-related. They’re really trying to live out God as priority No. 1.”
“I really enjoyed it,” Pierce said of the leadership weekend. “I was able to get a lot out of it in the little time I was there. I was able to understand how much of a leader I could be within my faith.”
According to Noll, Discipleship U is thriving.
“Things are growing,” she added. “This high school leadership was almost three times as big as the one in April.”
The next Discipleship U weekend is April 24-26 at CrossWoods.