As most of you know, this is my last week as the Director of Faith Formation for The Catholic Community of St. Nicholas and St. William. A lot has changed over the last five years – when I started in 2012, we had two different Pastors and Parish Staffs. It seems like a very different place today. The thing that is the same is the community, all of you who welcomed me with open arms on July 1, 2012 have not changed. The thing I am most proud to have been a part of for the last five years is our youth programs.
When I started our youth programs, especially our high school youth program was very small. I knew the expectation was that the program needed to grow – I had some ideas but I had no idea if it would be successful. During the summer of 2012, I started to meet the parishioners and the families of the teens. I prepared myself to begin ministering to the teen community and leading our youth programs. I could not have prepared myself for what was about to happen.
One night when we were brainstorming ideas with the teens before our kickoff event – one of the teens said, “David, this is all great but we have one problem… we do not have enough people to do any of these ideas.” A few weeks later the night of the kick-off we had close to 80 teens and their families show up at the teen center for a BBQ. There was no explanation – everyone was shocked. The only explanation I had was that God is working here right now and we must trust in Him.
The scripture verse of the year when I started was Jerimiah 29:11.“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”This verse is something that is still at the center of our youth programs and I think when we truly believe it, God’s plans outweigh anything we could have imagined.
I thought I was here to give the teens something but I quickly learned that it was not up to me. I was just facilitating God’s plan for this ministry. Something else remarkable happened – the teens started leading parts of the program by giving talks, leading discussions, and sharing their faith. One day, half way though that first year – I realized I had not been just leading the teens closer to Christ but they had also been leading me closer to Christ. Throughout my time here, I have learned that repeatedly. As I reflect on the last five years, I am not sure who has led who more often.
As I prepare to leave this ministry, I tell you this because the Church teaches that the youth are not just the future of the Church – they are the church right now. The students in our youth programs have a lot to offer especially as we continue this alignment process. They have a unique relationship with Christ and with our parish. Some of the youth in leadership roles contribute as much as 10 hours a week. When I look at them, I see hope for our church not only at St. Nicholas and St. William but in the wider church.
Thank you for all your support over the last five years. Over and over again I have personally experienced how God is working in this community. I know He will continue working through the youth and through all of you. I will
be praying for all of you and I hope you will also keep me in your prayers as I begin my new journey.
David Cortese, Jr.