Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Camp experience helps youth bring leadership skills to parish life

by Jami LeBrun, Inland Register staff

(From the July 29, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

Youth Leadership Camp The diocese’s Youth Leadership Camp offers young people opportunities for lessons in community building, personal growth, and prayer. (IR photo courtesy of Mary Boustos)

The diocese’s Parish Services Office (PSO) sponsored its annual Youth Leadership Camp June 21-25 at Pinelow Park Camp and Retreat Center in Loon Lake. Teens from all over the diocese joined together to spend time developing their leadership skills and putting those skills into practice. They left the week-long camp relaxed, refreshed and fired up about taking active roles in their parish communities.

The PSO uses the Christian Leadership Institute (CLI) program to teach teens leadership skills. CLI offers an opportunity for leadership development through an intense week-long period of learning and community living.

The program is an in-depth experience in community building, communication skills, and personal growth, which will enable each young person to take a leadership role in parish or school youth ministry. The process includes skills development, liturgy and recreation.

CLI attempts to teach teens that faith is essential to being a strong leader. “Faith and leadership skills have to be intertwined,” said Paul Mach, youth ministry consultant for the diocese and coordinator of the camp.

Teens spend time developing their leadership skills within the context of their Catholic faith. CLI fosters spiritual development through daily prayer and liturgy. Participating teens learn to lead and participate in prayer and liturgy.

“That’s a big part of being a leader. Christ is the center,” said Michaela Kearns, the youth minister from St. Joseph Parish in Colbert. Kearns spent the week at camp leading music and helping to demonstrate strong leadership skills to the teens.

The CLI program consists of various skills workshops, including leadership, communication, group dynamics, decision-making and planning. Each day participants gather in their small groups for sharing and personal reflection. They learn more about prayer, Catholic community, youth ministry, Catholic values, and affirmation. Participants practice their new skills each day through planning community liturgies, socials and other aspects of the camp.

Skills workshops, activities and group sessions were designed to help participants discover their own unique leadership skills.

“The kids learned about different types of leadership,” said Kearns. “The camp brought out a variety of leadership types. Everybody’s gifts shone.”

Rachel Thomas, a sophomore at Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane and a member of Spokane’s St. Joseph Parish, said she learned a lot at camp.

“I didn’t realize communication skills were so important,” said Thomas. “But when people aren’t listening to you, it’s really frustrating.”

Thomas said the session will change the way she communicates.

Camp gave the teens many opportunities to demonstrate their leadership skills. They did everything from planning liturgy, to cooking meals, to waking one another up in the morning.

“My favorite part of the week was when my group had the wake up call on Wednesday morning and I got to wail on my drums at 7:15 a.m.,” said Mark Burgard, a junior at University High and a member of St. John Vianney Parish in Spokane Valley. He brought his full drum set with him for the week.

Musically inclined teens helped Kearns lead music at Masses throughout the week. Instruments included Kearns’ guitar and Burgard’s drum set, as well as bass, flute and several beautiful voices.

Adult leaders emphasized the importance of community and provided plenty of free time and activities for participants to bond with one another. Even the meals the teens prepared themselves were designed to create community.

“We had sit-down family meals,” said Mach. “We encouraged the kids to visit throughout the meal and everyone to finish at the same time.”

Grace Birrenkott, a senior at Tekoa High School, attended the week long camp and came away brimming with ideas. “I’ve learned some things to bring back to my youth group and try to get them active,” she said.

Birrenkott’s attitude is exactly what CLI camp is all about.

“We want these kids to realize when they leave that they need to take on the responsibility of being a leader, in their churches, schools, communities, neighborhoods – everywhere,” said Mach. “They’re called to be Christian leaders.”

Father Edward Marier is the new pastor of the parishes in Colton and Uniontown. The diocesan priest spent the week with campers.

“I had a great time,” he said. “It’s so nice to see high school youth who are into their faith learn to find ways to put it into action and look for different opportunities to put it into action.”

The week went smoothly; participants had fun, made new friends, and even learned a lot of new things. The diocese was geographically well represented by the teens – they came from throughout Eastern Washington to take part.

“People need to know that this camp is not just for the kids in the Diocesan Youth Conference,” Mach said. “It’s for all parish youth leaders. We want to help them to realize that they’re not the Catholics of tomorrow, they’re the Church already.”

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