Catholic Herald staff
As youths across the diocese gear up for summer mission trips, high school students from Holy Family, Woodruff, will be fundraising for a different style of adventure.
For the second consecutive year, Woodruff teens are headed to southern Indiana for One Bread, One Cup, a five-day liturgical conference on the campus of Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology.
Led by college-age interns and hosted by the 90-plus Benedictine monks of the Saint Meinrad Archabbey, the conference is an immersion in the Word, sacrament and mission of the Catholic Church, said Diana Maki, director of faith formation for the parish’s pre-Kindergarten through 12th-grade members.
Before she took her current post four years ago, Maki was the faith formation coordinator for pre-K through sixth grade, a position she’s held since 1998. She first learned about the conference a couple of years ago in Today’s Liturgy magazine; Fr. Aaron Devett, pastor of the parish, knew of an affiliated Benedictine community, and made a couple of calls to learn more.
“Based on what we read … we thought it would be a good option for us to bring youth to,” she explained.
Although the parish usually offers a mission trip for youths, there was a shortage of adult chaperones available last year, so the trip to Saint Meinrad was the alternative. Four people – teens Claire Kaminski and Brighid Billing, as well as Maki and Sarah Lyons, former director of music and liturgy – made the 11-hour trek to St. Meinrad.
The archabbey sits on a 250-acre campus that houses a seminary, school of theology and retreat facilities. Benedictines are known for their hospitality, and they warmly welcomed the group to a place of “perfect peace.”
“Everything spoke of hospitality and peace,” Maki added. “As ninth- and 10-graders, they picked that up instantly.”
Formation for adults, too
Unlike many youth activities, One Bread, One Cup offers a program with separate sessions for adults. Lyons and Maki may have chaperoned on the road, but they, too, were learning at the conference.
“Basically, it’s the interns who lead the students,” Maki said. “They become their theological reflection group leaders.”
On their first day, teens choose a liturgy-related specialization for the week – some options include altar server, sacristan, art and environment, reader and cantor – and learn about how each fits into the Mass. Last year, teens from Woodruff learned about cantoring and chanting within the Liturgy of the Hours; as participants honed their craft, they became more integrated in the Mass.
“The youth who signed up for liturgical environment, they created their own candles, and then their candles were used in the liturgy,” she said.
Adults, meanwhile, recharged spiritually in their own sessions, joined youths in catechetical sessions and discussed how to integrate youths in Masses back home.
“That way, we could help orient the kids into doing things they learned at One Bread, One Cup into the parish,” she added.
Impact upon parish
Years of experience have taught Maki that mission trips, summer camps and youth rallies have their place in youth ministry, but it’s hard to sustain that energy.
“How do you keep up that momentum when you are no longer in that community?” she added.
At Saint Meinrad, by contrast, everything is Mass-oriented and liturgy-oriented, and teens gain the confidence to participate in Mass both at the conference and afterward.
“They are renewed each week when they come to Mass,” she said. “It’s about, ‘You’ve been called out by God on a mission. How are you going to live out that mission?’”
At Holy Family, one of the teens is now a cantor.
“She’s doing what the adults are doing,” Maki added.
The other is mentoring altar servers, singing in the choir, “and just being more present at Mass,” said Maki.
She’s grateful the parish is accepting of having youth in roles sometimes limited to adults, and she believes the experience has enriched them all: “It has made a difference, and an obvious difference, to our parish. I feel so blessed to be in our particular parish … that’s not such a big jump for us.”
“Mass was probably our favorite part, because of the singing,” Kaminski said in a video the girls made for the parish. “We thought that it was going to be like a normal Mass where nobody actually was singing, but in that little tiny chapel, where there were probably like 200 people, it was louder than probably a quarter of our congregation at Holy Family singing. It was incredible.”
“I think the really awesome moment for me was one of the monks went up, the very first day, the beginning of Mass …. [he said] I don’t know where you came from, but we sing here, so you better start singing,” Billing added. Then, the men led off.
“All around us was God,” Kaminski said. “We learned that it’s like that everywhere. You just have to stop once in a while and look around; you’ll notice that God is everywhere.”
A look at religious life
The conference also afforded youths a close-up view of religious life. Besides inviting students to join their five-times-daily prayer, the monks also mixed with them during social events, spoke on relevant topics and used modern equipment.
“They were always there, putting themselves in the presence of the youth,” Maki observed.
She was surprised by the monks’ knowledge of pop culture and their technological savvy, and she saw how easily the Benedictines related to teens.
An example sticks in her mind: One monk compared the Trinity to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an image that resonated with listeners.
Something that resonated with Maki was an adult session on the book “Forming Intentional Disciples,” and the observation cultural Catholicism is no longer the norm. Youth ministers may be watering and nourishing a seed of Catholicism that has never been planted; it falls to faith formation leaders to guide students from being seekers and disciples to apostles with a sense of mission.
“How do we help these youth get integrated into their parish back home?” she commented. “How do we help them live this … within the parish setting?”
Maki was grateful for the 11-hour trip home because the girls had time to process all they learned that week. The teens decided – unsolicited – they wanted to tell the parish about their faith experience, so Fr. Devett arranged for them to speak at all four weekend Masses a month after their return. With composure and maturity, they stood before the parish and shared their stories.
“They were just so on fire about living their mission,” Maki added.
Present, future church
The journey was as memorable for her.
“It was a good experience for me to have gone,” she said. “It couldn’t have been a better experience. For us, as adults, we had the best. I don’t know if it will ever be that good again.”
When Maki considers the benefits of One Bread, One Cup – to the girls, to the parish, to the church – she hopes teens throughout the diocese will someday have the opportunity to visit Saint Meinrad.
“If we really want to ensure that in a generation we have worshiping Catholics, this is the best thing we can do to ensure that church a generation from now,” she said.
The conference costs $550 per participant and is open to high-schoolers who have finished their freshman year through recent graduates. College students can return as interns.
To learn more, contact Maki at 715-356-6284, Ext 4.