By Dan Russo
STRAWBERRY POINT — What does a youth minister at a local parish do when a teen comes to him or her to talk about drugs, depression of any of the other serious problems many of today’s youth are facing?
Local experts recently provided guidance to youth ministers from around the archdiocese on the pastoral needs of teens during a program at EWALU Camp and Retreat Center in Strawberry Point. Counselors for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque were among a group of professionals from the agency that covered a variety of topics, including anxiety, depression, suicide and addiction.
“You never know what’s going to walk through your door (as a youth minister),” said Kevin Feyen, director of adolescent faith formation for the archdiocese. “Knowing a little about the issues and who to go to for help is critical.”
Several dozen youth ministers participated in the training session, which was held May 13 as part of a multi-day retreat.
Charlene Vig, coordinator of youth ministry for St. John the Baptist Parish in Mt. Vernon, said she appreciated the insights from Catholic Charities staff.
“Many of the challenges that Catholic Charities discussed that day have been a bit of a mystery or taboo for me,” explained Vig. “I really appreciated that they presented every disorder, challenge, disability in a factual manner.”
Vig believes she will be able to apply what she learned at her parish.
“I think I left feeling much more confident in having a vocabulary to use with troubled teens and/or their parents, which will ultimately help me to be more proactive and less nervous if or when I am in a position to talk to a student who needs help,” she reflected.
The retreat, which lasted from May 13-14, also featured the opportunity for youth ministers to network with each other and enjoy personal time. On Friday night, participants completed a mini-retreat on tending to the soul of the youth ministry leader, according to Feyen. On Saturday morning, the group talked about ways to focus parish youth ministries and shared success stories and common challenges.
Photo: Todd Ostwinkle, L.M.H.C, I.A.D.C., a counselor at Catholic Charities, talks to youth ministers May 13 in Strawberry Point. (Photo by Zoe Houlihan/Catholic Charities)