Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Sherwood Park focuses on youth evangelizing youth.Courtesy of Tricia Murphy

Our Lady of Perpetual Help youth ministry shows church is thriving not dying

Recently, in a discussion during one of the online youth meets, one of the youth at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Sherwood Park said, “Don’t you all feel like our church is on fire!” To which many showed signs of agreement and to be honest … I laughed.

I laughed in joy because so many youth in our youth group feel like our church is thriving despite so many adults feeling like our church is dying. If you are one of those people, I encourage you to keep reading and know, just as Christ is alive, so is the church!

Tricia Murphy

I have never felt so close to my Lord as I do now working with these amazing young people. I, as an old(er) woman, look forward to every Sunday night where I get to meet with youth, 15 to 25-years-old, on fire for their faith from all over Alberta and some from BC.

When they converse, they do so with passion and excitement! When I ask them why they love their Catholic faith so much they say things like, “It provides a reason and hope,” and “the Eucharist and adoration”.

Some spoke about how they love how we can trace our faith back to Christ setting up the church foundation on the rock of St Peter, our first pope. One youth when asked what her favourite doctrine was simply replied that her favorite doctrine is that we have doctrine! We have authority and the catechism which provides clarity.

They love their heavenly mother and they are excited to pray the rosary and will come on a Wednesday night just to pray the rosary together online, or before mass. They are excited to read and discuss the Bible. Their excitement makes me excited for my faith, and for the future of our church.

I went into youth ministry to evangelize our youth! After all, isn’t that our goal? To evangelize? I soon realized that I needed to shift my goal just a bit. I needed to provide opportunities for the youth to experience God within their relationship of faith and let the Holy Spirit do the work… then, let the youth evangelize!

What better way to evangelize than to have our young people do it? I want young people to see their peers, their friends, on fire for their faith. Though I may not have completely shifted my goal, I knew that it was important to also communicate this to my youth and to also act on it.

Recently, we had a “COVID friendly” retreat and 60 youth came. There were so many that we had to stop taking registrations. I may have organized the retreat and advertised to the masses but do you know why so many came? Because of the youth inviting their friends!

Another example of taking on the philosophy of “youth evangelizing the youth” is during our youth nights we write down all the many amazing inspiring, and sometimes humorous quotes, that are shared. Not me, but by them! We started a Youtube series called Cuppa Joe with JC where I interview young people about their faith. It is not me providing the answers, it is them. Often they may research and prepare in advance, which is amazing. They are willing to put in the work for this ministry. It is a beautiful blessing to see the youth grow in the faith, evangelize to others, and be that example of how to live out their faith.

So for all of you who may feel hopeless, I hope that these words fill your cup just a bit. Know that with God, anything is possible. Know that we are beginning something new and vibrant in our church and it is thriving. I would also encourage everyone to bring hope to those around you.

It is very easy to discuss everything that is going wrong especially since that is how the media sustains itself. It is very easy to be frustrated about registering for mass, being unable to receive the Eucharist the way you want to, or angered because you disagree with your priest or even the Pope. But what does this say to our children and to those around us? The reason why these youth have lit a fire in me, is because of the fire that is lit in them.

Do not let your fire be snuffed out, do not put your light under the basket, be a beacon for our children. For those whose fire has gone out, we are here for you. God is not going anywhere, and neither is His church. A candle that has been snuffed, can always be relit.

To know more about the ministry OLPH Youth, follow them on Instagram or Facebook or visit their website

– Tricia Murphy is the youth coordinator of Our Lady of Perpetual Help church in Sherwood Park.

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