Living Hope Newsletter – December 2013

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San Gabriel Mission Youth Ministry

San Gabriel Mission is one of California’s oldest historic mission sites, but the activities taking place at the Mission’s parish and schools are full of the vitality of young people working together for good.

The Claretian parish of San Gabriel Mission includes an elementary and an all-girls high school. Both schools were founded by and continue to be run by the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose. Here the Claretians make spiritual growth for young people a priority, as they do in their ministries throughout the U.S.—always with an emphasis on leadership development. San Gabriel Mission youth ministry programs touch the lives of some 500 young people on a regular basis.

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“Youth ministry at San Gabriel embraces a diverse community of young people,” says Teri Collier, who directs the programs. “They gather together here to grow in their faith through prayer, the study of scripture, fellowship, and community service.” A young adult herself with a strong background in service and education, Teri’s ideas are rooted in first-hand experience and a passion for social justice.

Multi-generational mentoring is foundational to the youth programs at San Gabriel, tapping into the skills, wisdom, and care of people at all ages. Mentoring works because it embraces the expertise and experience of everyone in the community. The focus for youth mentoring at San Gabriel is on the healthy development of adolescents, expanding the capacity for young adult leadership in the community, and providing an experience of service to everyone involved.

The marimba band program at San Gabriel takes its cue in mentorship from a similar program at the Claretians’ Holy Cross/ IHM Parish in Chicago, where the group has been highly successful engaging young people in their parish and community. College students who are youth leaders in the Chicago marimba band, Jorge Ocampo and Laura Vazquez, gave 6 weeks of their summer this year to mentor the youth at San Gabriel for starting their own marimba band.

Having taught marimba at their parish in Chicago for years, Jorge and Laura shared their expertise with 15 students, ranging from middle-school students to young adults. They mentored one student in particular to assume a leadership role in the group as it continues to grow.

“The natural passing on of rhythms, melodies, and harmonies through marimba lends itself well to a mentormentee relationship,” says Teri Collier. “Not only do the kids learn a skill, but they also grow in relationship with one another as they work through the challenge that comes with learning and perfecting a song."

Gabe’s Place, a summer program launched last June for elementary-age children at San Gabriel, gives young people a different unique opportunity to engage in mentoring relationships and to serve others. Gabe’s Place is facilitated by a small group of college students who support high-school students in working with the younger students on academics, life skills, recreation, and the arts.

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“Our goal,” Teri says, “is to strengthen the relationship between all of the age groups through meaningful service experiences shared among, and led by, students.

Fr. Bruce Wellems, C.M.F., pastor at San Gabriel Mission, is a believer in the effectiveness of involving people of all ages in mentoring. He’s dedicated much of his life as a priest to developing successful, innovative youth programs at Claretian parishes in Chicago, and now is employing similar practices at San Gabriel.

“When young people get involved in service work of any kind, it develops them as responsible people,” says Fr. Bruce. “Through that they then become more and more willing to give their support to others.”

Inspiring young people to get involved usually starts with their feelings of belonging in the community. San Gabriel provides training opportunities to people of all ages throughout their community to work with youth. The beautiful benefit is that most of these youth are then much more inclined to reach out in service to others— which in turn inspires still others who are watching, and hopefully following and growing through the real-life successes they witness.

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The Claretians’ Hispanic Ministry Resource Center (HMRC)

Created in 1990, the HMRC grew out of the Claretians’ desire to provide resources for pastoral ministers working with Hispanic communities throughout the United States.

Before HMRC there was a scarcity of materials produced in Spanish in the United States and even fewer that would be considered “culturally appropriate” for the fast-growing population of Catholic Hispanics. About 8,000 parishes in the country had some form of Hispanic ministry but no resources that responded well to the real needs of the people.

“Many Claretians were involved in Hispanic ministry in their parishes across the country but didn’t have enough resources that would be appropriate to use in their catechism and particularly their homilies,” explains Carmen Aguinaco, Director of the Hispanic Ministry Resource Center since its inception.

It has always been the philosophy of HMRC to understand the needs of the Hispanic population in the United States and produce new bilingual materials for ministry, not just translate existing materials nor import Spanish resources from other countries where the language might be the same but the religious experience differs. Materials published by HMRC reach 1,300 parishes around the country.

In 2002, HMRC launched ¡OYE!, an annual vocation and Catholic youth leadership development resource guide that reaches out to the expanding young Hispanic Catholic community in the United States. ¡OYE! is distributed free of charge through parishes, schools, and youth ministers, as well as through campus ministries throughout the United States, to any organization that has an opportunity to develop strong Catholic leadership in our country.

The HMRC department of the Claretians’ St. Jude League has played an integral role in Hispanic Ministry development at the national level, working closely with the Bishops at the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Washington, D.C.