“The last time I worked, breathed, and lived youth ministry, I was 17 years old in a parish in New York City,” explained Carlos Bernard, director of youth ministry for the Diocese of Orlando. “Even though I attended Catholic school from kindergarten through high school, the Lord Jesus Christ took this moment in my life to knock on the door of my heart, so that I would be able to let him in my life and ignite that fire of the Holy Spirit within me.” But that was then, and this is now. Bernard wanted to know what sets youth on fire for the Lord today. He did just that on a recent mission trip to Columbia, SC.
“I needed to immerse myself into a mission trip. There I hoped to fully understand what drives teenagers to serve Our Father,” he explained. Not long after that, he was invited to participate in Alive in You – a Catholic conference and service camp for youth and young adults. He accepted and went with other faithful members of Holy Cross and St. John Vianney Parishes in Orlando, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in St. Cloud and Most Precious Blood Parish in Oviedo attended.
“For six days, I got to see through the lens of a missionary disciple; to work hand in hand with the teens of our diocese and live out this special week with my youngest daughter. I saw in her what I remember feeling in my heart when I was 17. To be able to work with her and at the end of the day pray together in Eucharistic Adoration with our Lord was a moving feeling for a father,” he said.
This was his daughter’s second Alive in You mission trip. “The first time I went because I was having struggles with myself and my family,” she explained. “My dad thought it would be great for me to go with my sister.” She had such a great time that she chose to return this year. “Alive in You is really fun,” said Bernard’s daughter. “Most people think mission trips are like, here, we’re going to push Jesus on you. Or smack, you’re right into the bible. Read it. But it’s not. There are concerts. We were having fun while getting closer to God.”
The Alive in You camp theme this year is “Everlasting”. The youth learned how their salvation are connected to the Paschal Mystery. They explored how struggles can unite us to Christ and how we are called to continue Christ’s command to “make disciples of all nations.”
Bernard’s daughter learned this as her group cleaned and painted an apartment at Pilgrim’s Inn – a shelter for women. She noted, “At first, you don’t really think about it. You’re there cleaning and painting. It feels like a regular weekend at your house, but then you go to Mass. There they talked about what we were doing means to the women around us (from the shelter) and how much it connects to the children of God. It opened my eyes to see what these people’s journeys are like instead of just reading Scripture. We actually got to experience it.”
Bernard said the experience offered insight. “Youth go on countless mission trips, not because they see results from their labors, but because serving others transforms them in ways teenagers readily recognize. The good of compassion comes from being compassionate.”
The trip was a success for both father and daughter. On Father’s Day, Bernard posted on social media: “This week… I got to experience the three goals of Alive in You camps… To empower young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in our world today; To draw young people to be responsible participants in the life, mission, and work of the Catholic faith community; To foster the total personal and spiritual growth of each young person… and to end it on Father’s Day has been a heart moving event for me.”
Editor’s note: Some names are withheld to protect the privacy of minors.
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – June 26, 2018