by Katie Peterson
Special to The Leaven
WILLIAMSBURG — Prayer, planning and preparation were the key foci of the retreat that signaled the beginning of the year for the Northeast Kansas Rural Youth Council Aug. 6-7 at Prairie Star Ranch here.
Upon filling out applications last spring, 17 teenagers were chosen to serve on the council in the coming year. Sixteen of them, along with Angie Bittner, the rural youth ministry outreach coordinator, went on the retreat.
Prayer was the first order of business.
“We really try to do some interior formation because we realize that if we don’t know God really well and talk with him every day, then it’s hard to share him with others. So we concentrate on that a lot,” said Bittner. “And we intentionally prayed for the rural parishes that we’ll touch.”
Even though COVID-19 will constrain their traditional events, she said, outreach will still be a big part of the year, so potential events were discussed, too.
“We’re really going to shift our year and see how we can really connect with parishes better,” Bittner said. “They don’t necessarily have to plan out all the events, but they do co-host them and share ideas because sometimes ideas that adults come up with aren’t necessarily what speaks to the kids, and we value their input and their ideas.”
Finally, the group completed Virtus training, and Deacon Jody Madden, the faith formation director for St. Bernard Church in Wamego, trained them as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist and lectors.
“Now, we’re all compliant and ready to help whenever we’re needed,” Bittner said.
Three-year member, 16-year-old Ellen Glynn of Sacred Heart Church in Sabetha, said the retreat is a highlight of the year for her.
“This year, I learned how to connect better with people who are struggling with their faith lives right now, which is understandable given our current situation,” Glynn said. “I’m really looking forward to problem solving and figuring out different, more hands-off ways to engage parishes and youth with outreach and events.”
First-time council member, 16-year-old Faith Henry of St. Mary Church in St. Benedict, said she loved every minute of the retreat.
“I really enjoyed getting to know [everybody] and their beautiful personalities. There are multiple members that I feel I could build lifelong friendships with,” Henry said. “With Christ as the center of the new relationships — and that all of us are from small towns with the same goals in life — make it very easy to bond.
“My goal for this year is sharing happiness,” she added. “I love being kind and joyful, and I feel like sharing happiness is what NEKRYC is called to do.”
First-time Northeast Kansas Rural Youth Council member, 17-year-old Noah Broxterman of St. Stanislaus Church in Rossville, said he felt a lot was accomplished during the retreat.
“We got closer as a group and had some really good conversation as a whole,” Broxterman said. “I learned a lot from the retreat, such as different ways we can help and pray for the other parishes during this time of quarantine.”
“I’m looking forward to getting to know the group better,” he continued, “and getting closer to God as a group as we help others and each other.”
Bittner said helping other youth find faith connections within their own age group is her biggest hope for the year.
“Most of these kids are public school kids and so it’s hard to find kids that are striving for the same things in faith,” Bittner said.
“We want to reach out to other youth of the diocese,” she added, “and let them know that they are not alone, even if they feel like they are the only kid in their class that wants to love the Lord.
“There are other kids that want to do that also, and they can walk together.”
For more information about the Northeast Kansas Rural Youth Council, go online here.