For St John’s College Woodlawn, 2021 has been a year of blessing, with the gift of having three Youth Ministry Officers (Natasha, Emerson and Jacob). As a result of having three YMOs, our college is acknowledging the need and passion for having youth within the school preaching the Gospel and inspiring people to live a life in relationship with Christ.
Mission is at the heart of what we, as YMOs, strive to achieve. Our role is to meet the students where they are in their faith journey. We have to understand that everyone is at different stages in this journey. Some students haven’t opened their hearts or minds to the possibility of having a relationship with God, yet we accept them for who they are, and still make sure that they know that they are loved and worthy. At the heart of all we do is to ensure that our students are treated with dignity and respect as unique children of God. Although there are many students who are still finding their faith, we are blessed enough to have a strong group of students who are craving more, and are searching for more purpose in their lives. We are so thankful to the YMOs who have come before us. They have paved a path that we are able to walk on today. They have ignited a spark in the students, and it is now up to us to accommodate those students, and lead a deeper and more intentional ministry for them.
This is now being achieved through the formation of Brotherhood and Sisterhood sessions that run once a week over the lunch breaks. Both groups include students who were identified as committed to ministry, were people who we thought demonstrate high moral standards, have a desire for a deeper faith or have a need for more time with like-minded people in their life. We did this, because we wanted to create a space where people could come as they are and feel welcome and safe to share whatever they wanted. For now, we are starting small, but as time continues, we hope to extend the invitations of Brotherhood and Sisterhood groups to all students.
Being the first year that Woodlawn has ever had a male YMO, we have been wrapped with the fact that we have had 12 young men, of whom we saw as valuable assets to the brotherhood. To our delight, after sending out invitations to each of these boys, they all accepted with enthusiasm. It was amazing to see some of the boys who can be ‘spirited’ in class, or find school to be a drag, being the ones who were the most enthusiastic to join and be a part of something bigger than themselves. Brotherhood has been designed to allocate 10-20 minutes at the start of each session for a mentorship talk, with the remainder of the session consisting of various activities such as; basketball, soccer, handball or just casual conversations and movies. The theme for Term 2 has been based around what it means to be a man in today’s society, and how we can be men of God. We have looked into Men of the Bible, and currently use St John the Apostle as our ‘mascot’.
Similarly, we were blessed in being able to invite 18 girls to be a part of our sisterhood. Similar to the boys, every invitation was accepted by the girls with great enthusiasm. The girls have even asked for the meeting days to be changed, so that they can all attend without others having to go to other various school meetings. Our sisters represent an age range of 14-18 years of age. We have also been fortunate enough for the word of the ‘Sisterhood’ group to spread, to the point where students are approaching us in the hallways, asking to be a part of such an amazing opportunity. This term, sisterhood has been based around the figure of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We chose to break up her story and focus our sessions once a week on a different part of the story such as doubting, beauty, pain, faith and belief. Each one of these sessions has been explained and developed so the YMO girls share an honest testimony about themselves on said topic in order to allow the girls to witness the depth of their faith and their courage at being open, honest and engaging.
So far, we are pleased with how these sessions are running, and we aim to continue the sessions for the remainder of 2021. We will also look to discuss and evaluate ways in which to improve after each term. We believe that this will be an effective way of ministering to students, as they become more comfortable with their peers and willing to share more of their own faith experiences. Overall, we hope that the students are able to know that they are worthy and loved by Jesus Christ, and that we can leave our own mark on the faith journey that Woodlawn is on.
Emerson, Bianca and Jacob
Youth Ministry Officers, St John’s College Woodlawn