By PAUL A. BARRA
BATESBURG-LEESVILLE — The Youth and Young Adults Ministry Office of the Diocese of Charleston put on another in what is becoming a long line of sold-out events during the second week of July. It was the weeklong high school Christian Leadership Institute, held at Camp Kinard.
One of the counselors was Tim Forbes, youth minister at Christ Our King in Mount Pleasant. He said that some students at his parish were turned away because of space limitations; that is becoming the norm since diocesan youth programs are now so popular and Forbes can understand why.
“I draw more out of it than the teens, I think. Part of it is Christ’s message, part is the great job Jerry (White) does,” he said.
White is the diocesan youth ministry director. He said that the CLI builds leadership for the present as well as for the future.
“The basis of this institute is that kids come into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and learn that they don’t have to wait until they’re 21 to minister. They come here with a lot of head knowledge from their parishes, but with not a lot of personal experience. We try to get them excited about their faith,” White said.
Apparently the technique works. Suryia Rotunda, a rising sophomore from St. Peter’s Parish in Beaufort, said that it was all she had been lead to expect: “I’ve had lots of fun and have met new friends. The talks have been awesome. I’m learning more about myself and God.”
Another first time attendee, Guy Boudreaux, a junior whose parish is St. Joseph in Columbia, came because of the reputation of the institute.
“I heard from many friends that it is a good camp,” Boudreaux said.
He also said that CLI teaches practical matters for high schoolers who will go back to their parishes and assume leadership roles in youth organization, matters such as “how to organize a meeting and how to get people’s attention.” The workshops and lectures are prepared and run by graduates of the program who are still in youth ministry. One who is on her way to college came back to volunteer as a counselor. Allison Dalbec said that the camp changed her life so much that she wanted to share the experience.
“It means the world to me,” Dalbec said. “The camp set me in the right way.”
Colleague Mike Sylvester of St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Simpsonville agreed: “Any experience we can share with them that will help them not go down the wrong path is worth it.”
Eric Helmueller, who helps out with youth ministry at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, said that he comes to volunteer out of a sense of admiration for the campers: “I came back to my faith when I was 25. Any teen with faith now is way ahead of me, and I admire and want to help them.”
Throughout each of the five days of the camp, prayer sessions, Bible study, liturgies and leadership skills workshops are interspersed with songs, competitions and activities. The youth are broken up into teams (named after Paul’s epistles); they play against each other, perform skits to dramatize principles and socialize.
The Christian Leadership Institute is officially listed as “A program of leadership and discipleship .” It is designed to empower the attendees to effectively share their faith. It doesn’t hurt that the kids have a good time while they’re at it.