Catholic Vancouver July 12, 2017

Summer camp trains Catholic leaders

By Agnieszka Krawczynski

Clay Imoo leads a workshop on communication at YouthLeader in Abbotsford July 11. (Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)

ABBOTSFORD—An international program that teaches young people to become strong Catholic leaders has made a big impression on 30 local teens.

“I’ve gained a lot more confidence,” said Tiarra Badlis, a member of St. Jude’s Parish youth group and El Shaddai. 

Badlis and three friends from St. Jude’s travelled to Abbotsford July 10-14 for YouthLeader, a week-long conference for teens created by the U.S.-based Center for Ministry Development.

Held each summer, the camp aims to train future youth ministers and engaged young Catholics.

We are the leaders of the future. — Tiarra Badlis

“We are the leaders of the future,” said Badlis, who is looking forward to becoming president of her school’s pro-life club when she enters Grade 12 this fall. She also teaches altar serving and is active in swimming and basketball teams.

“Even if you’re not the team captain, I think you still need leadership skills to understand the skills the leader has, in order to be led. You can understand how to be the best team player.”

Erin Chute, who just finished Grade 9 at Holy Cross Regional Secondary this summer, is also looking forward to using her YouthLeader training.

“A lot of times, kids are like: ‘church is boring and it’s not fun,’” she said. Chute dreams of changing that by becoming a youth minister at Immaculate Conception Parish and a core member of Searching in the Spirit, a summer camp for newly confirmed students. 

“I can see myself being a leader, bonding with other leaders, and being a great team that we can lead people closer to God and have an awesome time doing things that are religious.”

Erin Chute smiles during a YouthLeader activity. (Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)

She has already picked up a leadership role at school by becoming a core member of the Reverence for Life Club. “I like contributing and feeling like I’m making a difference.” 

Kevin Prevou, past director of youth ministry in the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, has helped run YouthLeader in various cities for about 10 years. He travelled north of the border to help facilitate the local event at Summit Pacific College in Abbotsford. 

“There are so many youth camps, and some of them even have leader in the title, but they’re more ‘praise and worship’ camps and ‘feel-good’ camps, if you will, which is not bad. But it seems to me young people need skills they can use,” he said.

“This week is focused on leader skills that young people are going to be able to use at home, at church, and in the civic community.” Those skills including being proactive, good communication, having principles, and planning.

“All of this is connected to who we are as Christian leaders,” he added. “Pope Francis reminds us that Christ is not just about being religious. Christ is about us seeing the needs of people around us and making connections with those people.”

Matthew Hunger raises his hand during a YouthLeader camp activity. (Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)

In his diocese, Prevou would ask teens who had participated in YouthLeader to join the diocesan youth council. “I knew they already had training.”

Chaperone Erwin Mow has also seen the difference a leadership conference can make for teens.

“I was asked to lead a group of three,” from St. Mary’s in Vancouver in 2004. “All three of them who I went with are now quite involved.” 

One got involved with PREP, another in youth ministry, and all three led groups to World Youth Day after attending YouthLeader.

“They get some training, they establish some connections with other parishes, and really get their skills. This is just a start. Whatever they learn here, they need to apply it fully.”