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Nourishing the Imaginations of the Young Church

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In seeking to capacitate young people for mature lives of faith, Notre Dame Vision offers an opportunity for young people and the adults who minister to them to encounter the fullness of Jesus Christ revealed in the Scriptures, the sacramental life, and in communion with the Body of Christ—the Church. Keynote speakers, small group discussions, prayer experiences, and personal reflection cultivate a vision of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, who captivates their imaginations and calls them to respond with the witness of their lives.

In the opening session of the week the high school students and adults who serve them gather together to hear Jesus, the Word, ask us: “Are you listening?” In the high school Vision program, the high school students and their college-age Mentors-in-Faith build communities focused on listening to the Word of God, to each other, and to ourselves. Meanwhile, the adult campus and youth ministers form community that fosters a disposition of receptivity to the Word, attentiveness to the workings of grace in our lives, and commitment to a renewal of ministry to young people.

In the high school program we encounter The Word Who Listens as we hear Jesus, the Word, ask us: “What are you going through?” In the Emmaus story, Jesus draws near and asks the disciples to share what they are discussing as they walk along. As the Emmaus story continues, Jesus interprets for them the Scriptures concerning him, inviting the disciples to see in a new way. The Word Who Teaches asks us: “What questions arise in your hearts?” Christ, the living Word, invites us to look closely at our lives to recognize our need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. The Word Who Heals asks us: “What do you want me to do for you?” Cleansed through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are able to hear the Word anew.

The fundamental truth of the Christian faith is that we are created out of nothing for pure love and we are beloved. The Word Who Creates asks us: “Do you believe that you are created in the image and likeness of God?” In our relationships with others, we recognize their belovedness in the eyes of God and God’s love for us expressed through them. The Word Who Remembers asks us: “How do you love one another?”

The practice of speaking and singing the Word shapes our hearts and minds to recognize and respond to the Word. The Word Who Speaks asks us: “How do you speak the Word through your words?” With a renewed understanding of the Word, Jesus sends us forth to act on it. Our experiences of the week form a foundation for our creative response to God’s call with our lives. The Word Who Sends asks us: “How will you go and do likewise?”

Vision CYM participants dedicate mornings to nourishing a scriptural imagination and afternoons to a renewed practice of storytelling. Scriptural immersion invites us to attend to the particularity of Scripture, overcome a complacent sense of familiarity with the texts, and allow the Word to speak to us anew. In narrative illumination we receive stories of the concrete ways God works in the lives of others and we practice recognizing and crafting our own stories. An important dimension of the week is exploring ways to integrate these practices into ministry with young people so as to enkindle the imagination of the wider Church.

Nourished by a week at Notre Dame Vision, young people and those who serve them go forth to their home parishes, families and schools invigorated to renew the life of the Church.

To learn more about the McGrath Institute for Church Life‘s mission of nourishing the Catholic imagination and renewing the Church, read this week’s Editorial Musings by Timothy O’Malley.

Featured photo courtesy of Notre Dame Vision.

Megan Shepherd

Megan Shepherd is the associate director of Notre Dame Vision and coordinator of Notre Dame Vision for Campus and Youth Ministers.