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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry
Today’s guest(s): Br. Lake Herman, OFM Cap; Br. Erik Lenhart, OFM Cap; Cara Annese; and Kelly Hughes of Capuchin Youth and Family Ministry
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Today’s topics: Capuchin Youth and Family Ministry
Summary of today’s show: After serving the youth and families of the Archdiocese of New York for decades, Capuchin Youth and Family Ministry is expanding its services to Boston. Scot Landry talks with two Capuchin brothers and two lay volunteers from the post-college service year group CapCorps about the secret to CYFM’s success and how to reach young people of today with the Gospel message to awaken and enliven their Catholic faith.
1st segment: Scot said Capuchin Youth and Family Ministries reaches out to youth, especially those who’ve fallen away. They’ve been successful in New York and want to extend their ministry to parishes in Boston. Scot asked Br. Lake about CYFM. Br. Lake said it was a retreat center established about 40 years ago in the Hudson Valley after a couple of priests and Catholic families did a Cursillo retreat to bring the same experience to youth of the area. It expanded to parish confirmation retreats and meeting young people wherever they are.
Scot asked Cara if it’s similar to Cursillo in the effects on young people. She said it’s similar, but it’s also an experience of being together with people who are similar that you can bond with for life.
Br. Erik said Capuchins try to balance prayer and ministry. He told a story of early Capuchins who were intensely drawn to prayer, but saw people suffering from the Plague and so turned to that ministry. So the prayer informs the ministry. Not only the friars, but also youth and families are drawn to prayer and that work.
Kelly was a psychology major at Providence College and was drawn to campus ministry. It was a transformative experience and she wanted to continue after graduation. CFYM says “It’s tough, but we need to do it,” so seeing how she could grow in ministry she decided to do it. She said it’s a little easier to minister to peers in campus ministry, but with teens it needs to be more engaging and entertaining, all with the intent of making them feel comfortable, which is easier for college kids over high school kids.
Scot said St. Francis is well loved by so many for his beautiful attitude. He asked Br. Lake about the Capuchin order. Br. Lake said it was a reform movement from friars who wanted an intense prayer experience. From that contemplative prayer they could go out for other kinds of ministry. They formed in a time of great social upheaval around the time of the Reformation in the 1500s. Br. Erik said the Franciscan movement was almost always on the edge of chaos, but was most effective because of it. Scot said two things stand out about Cardinal Sean who remembers going to see a Capuchin brother as a young boy and being told that the Capuchin was the happiest man alive. Also, he knew the Capuchins got the hardest missionary assignments in the world and the thought he would get send far abroad.
Br. Erik was a cadet at West Point and the Franciscan retreat center was just across the Hudson River. He had some powerful retreat experiences there and saw himself conflicted about being a soldier and the requirements of the Gospel. Seeing the older friars at the retreat center, he recognized a spirit in them and he hoped to have that spirit in himself after 50 years as a Capuchin.
Cara got involved in the retreat ministry because it was different for involving the family. It was about the whole life of the teen. Adult observers are allowed on the retreat to experience what the teens experience.
Scot asked if the kids come knowing what they’re getting into? Cara said for the confirmation retreats, they’re coming with schools or parishes. There are usually 40 to over 100 kids. Some don’t want to be there, but many are interested and come away inspired. On other CFYM retreats, kids come to the retreat after their older siblings have gone. The Day by Day Agape retreat is a Cursillo-style retreat for younger teens.
Br. Lake said Day by Day Agape was named by the teens at the time and it comes from a song in the musical Godspell. The teens lead all the major talks on prayer, Christian life, conversion, transformation, and obstacles. The spiritual directors do the more didactic, theological talks on grace, paschal mystery, sin and the sacraments. To have teens exposed to that is a powerful experience of opening their hearts to receive the love of God all around them and to see the world differently.
2nd segment: Scot asked what parents do each day for their kids to help them maintain their faith. He asked Cara to lend her expertise based on her experience with the retreats. She said CFYM starts where the teens are and what they want to do. Most teens are looking for a place to fit in and what they offer has some kind of value. They run a service week program that lets them serve the community and then reflect on it. Br. Lake said teens long for relationships, a sense of belonging. The retreats begin with community building that opens up a sense of trust among them. Kelly said as a high school student she thought that if she wasn’t a perfect Catholic, then she wasn’t a good Catholic at all. CFYM brings teens together who have the same struggles to see that none of them have the answer and no one is perfect and that gives them encouragement to continue on.
Scot asked Kelly what got her to go deeper into her faith when she got to Providence College. She said she went down all the wrong avenues and got to a breaking point. At PC she found meaningful relationships with genuine joy and acceptance among campus ministry. Now she can relate to the teens because she was like them in high school.
Br. Erik said one of the primary goals of CFYM was building community. To put teens in the same space that is safe to share experiences, it can let them know that things they were crazy or abnormal in themselves is in fact normal. Br. Lake said when they can be honest with their own vulnerabilities, where God has touched their lives, there is something universal about the experience of heartbreak, hope and disillusionment and God picking us up to lead us forward. Cara said sharing her story is how she shares her faith.
Kelly said on a confirmation retreat its best to be honest about how you didn’t know your faith, that you didn’t pray, you doubted God and it got better.
Scot said a big problem in the Church is that after kids are confirmed, so many stop practicing their faith. Br. Lake said people want to serve and use their gifts to the full. Creating programs of opportunity to serve is vital. Kelly said she started in her walk with the liturgical choir and that’s how she started with campus ministry, and then getting involved in service projects. Service is the doing that brings belief and faith. Cara found what she loves to do by seeking out opportunities to live her faith, to serve.
Scot recalled Pope John Paul said young people aren’t just the future of the Church, but also the present. He asked Br. Erik what young people can do to positively affect the Church today. Br. Erik said one thing is to take ownership of their faith. They need to take ownership of their parents’ faith and letting teens lead the retreat gives them that opportunity.
3rd segment: Scot asked Br. Lake about the CapCorps program and how it compares to similar programs. Br. Lake said it’s a community of young people who want to share their faith with teens and mentor them in their faith life. It is based out of their retreat center. They work in parishes as youth ministers as well as helping at the retreat center. The CapCorps volunteers live together, pray, eat, and socialize together. It’s been going on for 16 years.
Scot asked Br. Erik how he went from West Point to the Capuchins. Br. Erik said one summer he read a bunch of books about St. Francis and at the same time he met Br. Carlos. He couldn’t avoid realizing that this was an important event happening in his life. He then went on a retreat at the center.
Kelly said it was a long process to determine she wanted to do a year of service after college and then another long period to sort through all the programs. She found CFYM through a retreat leader at Providence College who’d been a CapCorps volunteer. The genuine love in all aspects of the program drew her in and sustained her. Cara was also very involved in campus ministry at Assumption College and when she was graduating she knew it was important to share her faith with others.
Kelly said in the beginning it was overwhelming to see the talent and faith of the volunteers she is working with and they’ve been able to come together for the retreats. Then living in community while working in separate youth groups helps them to encourage and help one another.
Br. Erik said going from West Point to CapCorps was a natural progression because they both were about mission-oriented teams working to accomplish a goal.
Scot asked Br. Lake what CapCorps alum go on to do after. He said they come from such varied background and college degrees so they take their experience with them into a variety of ministries in the Church.
Cara said being a CapCorps volunteer changed her career path from studying speech pathology to going to graduate school for pastoral ministry at Boston College.
Br. Erik said being a CapCorps volunteer at 20 years old made an impression on him, especially meeting the friars, and when he eventually graduated college, the Capuchin whisper in his ear led him to enter the order at 26.
Scot asked Br. Lake why he became a brother. He said the vocation of religious brother seems least appreciated in 2012. Br. lake said his background in undergrad was electrical engineering and worked in the aerospace industry building airplane engines for Pratt & Whitney. He had friends, success in his dream job, and was in graduate school, but he still felt unfulfilled. The joy of St. Francis drew him in and he went on a Capuchin retreat, and felt called to the community. He said the life is joy amidst the chaos. You never know what who will be coming to the house, what’s for dinner, and it’s a great experience of openness to the prompting of God.
4th segment: Scot asked Kelly about the types of retreats offered by CFYM. She said they do 7th and 8th grade overnight retreats, confirmation retreats, high school class retreats (freshman, sophomore, senior), high school leadership retreats for peer ministry, Day by Day Agape retreats, college student and young adult retreats, and adult retreats for women and family retreats.
Brother Lake said family retreats are at parishes with some presentations for the whole family and others that are age-specific. They take place all-day on a Saturday. They engage the whole person in activities, discussions, and topics they want to talk about and don’t know how.
Cara said the retreats are equally divided between the retreat center in Garrison, NY, and in parishes.
Br. Lake said they chose the Archdiocese of Boston to expand because it’s a good fit for them and there’s a need for them. There’s a Capuchin presence here already and they have CapCorps alumni at Boston College. There’s a natural convergence.
Parishes who are interested in scheduling them can call to ask about scheduling (See the website for contact information). Parishes can group together with other parishes to collaborate for the retreats. They do retreats in parishes or schools as well as in the retreat centers.