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Why Catholic? Meet Bishop Edward C. Malesic

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Diocesan Youth Advisory Council meets with Bishop Malesic

News of the Diocese

April 17, 2024

Diocesan Youth Advisory Council meets with Bishop Malesic

The inaugural Diocesan Youth Advisory Council met recently with Bishop Edward Malesic to share presentations on what it’s like to be a teen today and to offer ideas on how to evangelize and deepen the faith of their peers.

The advisory council is a diverse group of teens from across the eight-county diocese. Members were selected to serve as the local voice of the young Church for the bishop, to share with him and youth ministers the needs of youth and to be formed as missionary disciples to their peers, families and parishes.

The session, the final meeting of the 2023-2024 council, took place April 10 at the diocesan Cathedral Square Plaza offices. The teens enjoyed a meal with the bishop before their presentations. The 2024-2025 council will be announced and commissioned in May.

Lucy Rothgery of St. Jude Parish in Elyria served as emcee at the April 10 session.

Diocesan Youth Advisory Council meets with Bishop Malesic

The first group – Lucy Joyce of St. Helen Parish in Newbury and Gianna Kosir of St. Basil the Great Parish in Brecksville – created a video for the bishop on what it is like to be teen today. They shared their busy schedules, the ups and downs and offered him a “New Perspective” with inspiration from the song by popular artist Noah Kahan.

Next, Genevieve Comar of St. Dominic Parish, Shaker Heights, Will Graham of St. Malachi Parish, Cleveland, Maria Kroger of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish, Wooster, Connor Soltis of St. Ambrose Parish, Brunswick and Ava Sturznickel of SS. Robert and William Parish, Euclid, shared information on identity and community with the bishop.

“A lot of times, we struggle with finding, knowing and owning our identity as a child of God. It is easy for all other voices of sports, social media, clubs, the stress of our future and more, to compete for our attention,” Genevieve said. “However, when we find and anchor ourselves in our identity as a child of God and build ourselves a community centered around him, our stress can become more manageable, and we can become firmer in our identities.”

The group explained to the bishop the difficulties they have with everything competing to win their identity or threatening to tear it down, such as bullying – both in person and online.

Diocesan Youth Advisory Council meets with Bishop Malesic

Bishop Malesic encouraged them saying, “As you already shared, your identity is that you are a child of God. Each of you in this room is the person who is present to your peers to share the goodness of the Church and her teachings. I need you to be the voice of Jesus to them and show them love. This is the way of Jesus.”

The group also noted how important communities have been for growing their faith, especially youth ministry, campus ministry and retreat experiences.

“During my teenage years, my faith journey has been enriched by several community events that have helped me strengthen my relationship with Christ. Attending events like Kairos, CLE 2:16, the National Catholic Youth Conference and many others through my school, Elyria Catholic, gave me valuable experiences and lessons on what it means to be a true Christian,” said Connor.

Moira Burke of St. Angela Merici Parish, Fairview Park, Anthony Roach of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Christian Soltis of St. Ambrose, Brunswick, Audrey Supanick of St. Justin Martyr Parish, Eastlake and Nora Taylor of St. Jude, Elyria, gave a presentation on schools and catechesis. The group conducted a survey of their peers with more than 600 students from 30-plus area schools responding.

Diocesan Youth Advisory Council meets with Bishop Malesic

The survey revealed that 82% of the participants said they know who Jesus is, while only about 55% said they have a relationship with him. The highest-ranked positive influences on their faith were going to a Catholic school, teachers, parents and retreats. The top two negative influences on their faith were social media and peers.

The council members shared with the bishop their own experience and anecdotes from their peers about their experiences within Catholic schools and youth ministry programs.

They proposed four potential remedies and actions: keep investing in the youth, publicize a centralized database for Catholic resources, provide evangelization guidance for those ministering to youth (expanding from its current state to adults, teachers and mentors) and provide earlier exposure to the different vocations.

Noel Maddox of St. Raphael Parish, Bay Village and Gracie Plecha of St. Francis of Assisi, Gates Mills, made a presentation on discernment. They said 91% of seminarians in the diocese come from parishes with some form of youth ministry. Noel and Gracie said they first learned about discernment in youth ministry, as many of the seminarians likely did.

Diocesan Youth Advisory Council meets with Bishop Malesic

They noted that youth ministry often discusses and encourages teens in discernment, especially vocational discernment, but that it is not widely discussed in other aspects of their lives, including schools. They would like more of their peers to understand discernment and recommended that discernment classes be introduced in Catholic schools – both elementary and high school – and that widespread, structured discernment groups be established and promoted.

“So many young women have thought about religious life, but it is hard to discern something that we do not understand or have access to,” Gracie said.

Advisory council members said the move of the formation house for the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament from Cleveland to Louisiana was felt deeply by the teens in the diocese. Some expressed difficulty in discerning religious life and asked for help in getting the word out about discernment events.

The final group consisting of Lucy Jamison from St. Gabriel Parish, Concord, Joseph Karroum of St. Raphael Parish, Bay Village and Alexis Varner of Church of the Assumption, Broadview Heights, made a presentation on evangelization, beauty and revival.

They noted that youth ministry helps teens to pray, develop community, have fun, learn and evangelize. It also sets up community important to spiritual growth and opportunities for charity and service.

Diocesan Youth Advisory Council meets with Bishop Malesic

Lucy shared from her experience of becoming Catholic during her sophomore year of high school how those on the team for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults were excited and passionate about their faith, helping her to understand it in a concrete way. Council members said they want the same for their peers.

Events such as the Nov. 1, 2023 Eucharistic Revival Rally and Mass and CLE 2:16 – the diocesan youth conference – which takes place each January, help teens to grow in faith and share it with others, they said.

Alexis shared an anecdote from a friend who was moved by the Revival Rally. She said they shared a conversation on the bus ride home about faith and her friend eventually asked her to be her confirmation sponsor. If not for that event (the rally), her friend said she didn’t think she would have chosen to be confirmed.

While he spent most of the gathering listening, Bishop Malesic also addressed the teens, asking them questions such as, “What is something that you have to do but wish you didn’t?” He shared with them some of his story of growing in faith and encouraged them in all they are doing.

“I’m incredibly impressed and proud of the work you are doing,” he told the council members. “You are so much further along in your faith than I was at your age. I am excited to see how the Lord will work through you.”

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