By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — The high school youth group at St. Gregory Barbarigo Parish in Maryville is open to young parishioners in grades 9 through 12. The youth ministry director, Kathy Lea Rottinghaus, is passionate about getting to know the young people and know where they are in their faith. By knowing the kids, she can better work on ways to help them grow in faith and experiences. There is also a group for middle school students that Rottinghaus leads. As they grow, she said, so will the youth group.
Rottinghaus, 32, joined the parish ministry staff in Sept. 2011. She had become interested in ministry while attending the University of Northern Iowa where she had been actively involved in the Student Center. Her first job after graduation was as a senior high school youth minister. Last year she discerned that “God was calling me back into ministry.”
Often, young people in their first year of college, especially if they go away to school, fall away from the practice of their faith. Rottinghaus thought perhaps a connection with the Newman Center at Northwest Missouri State University, literally up the street from St. Gregory’s, would help young people transitioning from high school and family to college and being on their own for the first time stay focused in their faith.
In talking it over with seniors in the high school youth group, she learned that a number of them plan on attending college and want a connection with college students established before they arrive on campus.
Recently she met with Bridget Brown, director of the Newman Center at NMSU. They decided on a trial event to connect high school juniors and seniors with college students. A panel of both high school seniors and college students would discuss the transitional period between high school and college. Topics include spirituality, continuing to attend Mass and how to grow in a relationship with Christ. Fellowship of Catholic University Students guidelines will be used in discussions on sobriety, chastity and excellence, she added. There will also be a Christ-like Leadership discussion group, open to all high school youth. These will be one-time events held in the spring of 2013. The directors will then meet to evaluate and improve the program for the coming year. The pilot program is supported by parish based ministry grant funded by the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.
Rottinghaus has already implemented several programs in the youth group. “We use the diocesan ‘Journey to Emmaus’ curriculum,” she said. “The topic for the youth group meeting this past Sunday, Nov.11, was ‘Angels and Demons; all that is seen and unseen.’
We have 5 to 15 students attending youth group meetings, depending on class work, tests, jobs.”
The youth group participates in diocesan events as well, she said. “This year we have 20 ninth through 12th graders, in the youth group and confirmation class, attending the Kansas City Youth Congress Nov. 16 and 17. Last year we went to the National Catholic Youth Congress in Indianapolis. We also had a Teens Encounter Christ retreat at Conception Abbey.”
TEC combines three days of prayer, sacraments, games, presentations, small and large group discussions, recreation time, skits, and some things unexpected. The retreat encourages teens to a deeper relationship with God, others and the Church.
TEC is based on the Paschal Mystery; the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, as witnessed in the faith journeys of the team members and participants, and in experiences of prayer and sacramental life.
“We are just getting started,” Rottinghaus said. “We hope to grow as a group and individually and extend the involvement of members into college.”