By Tanya Connor
“There seems to be a new energy” in the Worcester Diocese to draw people back to Christ and Mass, Gina Kuruvilla observed Wednesday. She said this is in keeping with what’s happening with Pope Francis and outreach efforts.
“It seems like suddenly the Catholic world has woken up to the fact that we need to have Christ at the center of everything we do,” the director of religious education at St. Mary Parish in Shrewsbury said.
Mrs. Kuruvilla was reacting to the start of Vital 3.0, a youth ministry process starting up in Diocese, which she is coordinating at her parish.
She was one of 33 people participating in the first Vital 3.0 webinar in the Diocese Tuesday. St. Mary’s is one of 32 parishes which began this two-year process last month. It was introduced to diocesan leaders last year.
Other parishes can still participate but should sign up by Sept. 1, said Elizabeth Cotrupi, director of the diocesan youth ministry office called New Evangelization Worcester for Youth and Young Adults.
Her office, with the support of the diocesan Office of Religious Education, is coordinating the process.
Vital 3.0 was developed by Frank Mercadante, with help from Ela Milewska, through the Illinois-based Cultivation Ministries he founded and directs. They created Vital 3.0 in accordance with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ youth ministry document “Renewing the Vision.” They train parishes around the country to use the process to reach their own goals, using whatever curriculum they choose.
Vital 3.0 is a foundation on which to build a particular kind of youth ministry, Mrs. Cotrupi said. “Vital” refers to the vitality sought and “3.0” stands for a third generation of youth ministry, which employs different approaches than those used with the previous two generations, according to Mr. Mercadante. This process seeks to engage the whole parish and build a parish full of disciples and disciple-makers.
Mr. Mercadante, a former youth minister and now a consultant for parishes and national youth ministry organizations, is the author of “Engaging a New Generation: A Vision for Reaching Catholic Teens” and “Growing Teen Disciples.”
“A paradigm shift is desperately needed when ministering to our youth and their parents,” Mrs. Cotrupi said, explaining why the Diocese invited him last year to give introductory Vital 3.0 workshops, which were attended by Bishop McManus, 40 priests and more than 100 deacons, religious and laity.
“We must do something different or better than what we have been doing because we are losing parishioners to the fastest growing religion … the ‘Nones’ … those not affiliated with any religion,” Mrs. Cotrupi said. “Today’s Millennials are all about ‘belonging before they will believe,’ yet we keep approaching them as if they already believe and behave as did their Baby Boomer and Generation X predecessors. Today, a majority of teens and young adults believe a God exists but are indifferent to the impact he wants to have on their lives.”
Vital 3.0 will help leaders to understand youth and their parents and how best to minister to them, Mrs. Cotrupi said. It will help them pray together, form an evangelistic team and offer evangelistic events, catechesis, small faith sharing groups and “vibrant liturgies with youth involvement.”
The first of eight workshops was held at Immaculate Conception Parish hall in Worcester on June 13. Mr. Mercadante met with representatives of participating parishes, Mrs. Cotrupi said. In between workshops are six webinars; the first was held this week. Webinar participants interact with Mr. Mercadante and Mrs. Cortupi via computer, from wherever they are.
She said there is a sense that “we’re in this together,” and it’s good to see parishes collaborating and sharing prayer and “glory stories” of successes.
“I thought the webinar was hopeful and uplifting,” Mrs. Kuruvilla said. “It was really energizing to see how many parishes got involved with this.”
Anne Dowen, director of religious education at St. Mary of the Hills Parish in Boylston, called the webinar wonderful and helpful. She said there were so many participants that they had to mute the microphones and type their questions and comments for the others to read. They could hear Mr. Mercadante and Mrs. Cotrupi speak and see a PowerPoint presentation.
She said she thinks she will be her parish’s Vital 3.0 coordinator and has been thinking about the team to be formed. On it already is a high school catechist who is on the parish’s social justice committee, so she can use her work in those capacities with this new ministry. Mrs. Dowen said she would like a Knight of Columbus on the team, to include young people in the Knights’ events and prepare some to be Knights.
This summer, participating parishes are each to choose their Vital 3.0 coordinator if they haven’t already done so, Mrs. Cotrupi said. The coordinator is to form an intercessory prayer group to pray for the recruitment and ongoing work of a Vital 3.0 team. That team is to attend the second workshop Sept. 12.
There is no magic formula for Vital 3.0, Mrs. Kuruvilla said – “it’s the work of the Holy Spirit.” Those involved need to “go back to praying in a deliberate manner for the success of this evangelization effort, praying that our teenagers come back.” She said the hope is that they will bring with them their families – their parents and siblings now; their own children in the future.
Her parish is vibrant and has youth involved, but no one should be complacent, she said, “there is plenty of room for more people to come in.”
– Those wanting to participate in Vital 3.0 are asked to contact Mrs. Cotrupi at Liz@NEWorcester.org or 508-929-4360 by Sept. 1 The $285 for the first year and $250 for the second year includes a training binder and Mr. Mercadante’s books. For more information see “training” under youth ministry online at NEWorcester.org.