PROVIDENCE — For decades, the Catholic Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Providence has helped to provide a solid foundation for the youth of the area, particularly through the work of two local youth centers — Rejoice in Hope in Cranston and the Father Marot CYO Center in Woonsocket.
Over their many years of service, these local Catholic youth centers have both responded to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ call to empower young people to live as disciples of Jesus and to foster their personal and spiritual growth in fun and compassionate environments.
Michael Graves, 18, a parishioner of St. Timothy Church in Warwick, first visited Rejoice in Hope for his confirmation retreat in the ninth grade. At first he was apprehensive about attending.
“Even though I tried to use every excuse to get out of going to the retreats, I’m glad that I did,” he said. “I grew in faith and it inevitably led to my participation today.”
Graves’ involvement has led to being a member of the diocesan Leadership Team and Search Team. Search is a weekend retreat led by a dynamic group of peers. The team leads participants in group work, prayer, personal reflection and fun activities.
“It gave me the opportunity to meet and make new friends, as well as kick-start my new love and passion for our faith.”
Graves explained that being involved with the youth center was a chance for him to grow in faith with kids his age.
“It truly has become a second home for me,” he said. “I feel welcomed and accepted at all times. I have never been so faithful in my life until I started to participate and get involved. I could not be more grateful for the things the center has done for me.”
Pat Kane, director of Rejoice in Hope, shared that the center is a place where youth can discover more of who they are and who God is calling them to be.
“Our main goal is to encourage a personal relationship with Jesus and accompany them on their journey as a member of the Catholic faith,” she said.
The center is also host to the popular Glorify — a lively, monthly evening centered on Eucharistic Adoration and engaging faith-filled music that draws youth from around the state, including the Father Marot CYO Center.
Along with the spiritual aspect each space offers youth to find friendship. Whether on retreat, volunteering, playing sports or enjoying s’mores around a fire, it’s all within a supportive, faith-filled atmosphere.
“I think that once the young people begin to build relationships with each other, they want to return to have the chance to spend time and perhaps work alongside one another,” said Kane. “It gives them the opportunity to recognize that the Church is bigger than their own parish and they have something to contribute to the universal Church and perhaps learn from others from different parts of the diocese.”
In the coming year, the center is looking to encourage more youth to share their time with the annual Haunted Labyrinth, a non-profit run entirely by adult and youth volunteers at the Rejoice in Hope Youth Center. For the longest-running haunted house in New England, it’s not just about Halloween and scaring, it’s about bringing young people into the Church and offering them roles of leadership.
“Some are unchurched, and those that are might not be practicing their faith,” she said. “We want to offer opportunities for them to engage with each other, as well as some youth leaders and the staff in order to invite them to continue on, or begin on a path leading to full initiation in the Church.”
Both the Father Marot CYO Center and Rejoice in Hope Youth Center rely on the generosity of those who give to the annual Catholic Charity Appeal each year. The funding enables the centers to continue to offer many opportunities for young people.
“Without the funds from the Catholic Charity Appeal, this would not be possible,” explained Kane.
Leo Fontaine, director of the Father Marot CYO Center, also discussed impact that the Catholic Charity Appeal has on the Woonsocket facility and all that it offers the community.
“Despite the wonderful volunteers that we have, we also rely on our staff to bring these programs to the youth as well as providing facilities and materials for them. We also try to involve our young people in outside opportunities to help them grow in their faith by providing transportation to events, such as Glorify, on a monthly basis. All of these things require the financial ability to provide them and each dollar received through the Catholic Charity Appeal goes directly to those efforts.”
The Father Marot CYO Center has served the greater Northern Rhode Island area for over 40 years, providing programs and activities, including weekly prayer meetings, social activities, movie nights, retreats and many different leadership training opportunities throughout the year.
Fontaine explained that the center serves about 20 parishes throughout Northern Rhode Island. They provide two Search retreats as well as a Phase II retreat, a partnership with Rejoice in Hope Center. In addition, the Father Marot CYO Center provides parish retreats, typically serving a few hundred young people overall.
“There are so many things outside of the Church grabbing the attention of our young people, having a resource that will provide an enjoyable faith-based social experience to nurture their growth within their Catholic faith is so important,” said Fontaine.
“Helping them learn more about the Church, developing a support network of supportive friends and creating a structure of prayer in their lives helps to build a great foundation that we pray will keep them close to their faith throughout their young adult lives and eventually have them raising their own families with a full appreciation and love of Christ and his Church.”
All those dedicated to Rhode Island’s Catholic youth centers are enthusiastic about providing a welcoming atmosphere where young people truly feel like family, Fontaine explained.
“Giving them the opportunity to learn more about themselves and their faith along with opportunities to just hang out with great friends who are just as committed to their faith is so important,” he said. “We also need to understand the struggles that young people face today between school, work and family demands. By providing a good balance of spiritual growth, education and fun, we continually strive to keep our young people coming back as well as attracting new generations of young Catholics to take part in the CYO experience.”
You’re making an impact
Because of the generosity of so many, the Catholic Charity Appeal is able to support numerous ministries and programs of the Diocese of Providence, providing social, educational and spiritual support to thousands of Rhode Islanders each year regardless of race, creed or background.
Visit dioceseofprovidence.org/cca to learn more or to donate.
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