Youth overcome distance, experience universal Church at Northwest Deanery Youth Mass

by Jenara Kocks Burgess

North Texas Catholic

October 4, 2017

About 90 youth gathered at Sacred Heart Church in Wichita Falls for the first Northwest Deanery Youth Mass of the 2017-2018 school year. (courtesy photo/Susan Veitenheimer)


WICHITA FALLS — Bringing teens together to experience the universality of the Catholic Church can be challenging for rural parishes one or two hours apart and as many as three hours from major events near the diocesan offices in Fort Worth.

To fill that need, parishes in the Northwest Deanery began hosting youth Masses followed by a meal and social eight years ago.

“It came about as a collaboration among youth ministers, talking about an opportunity for our teenagers to gather together. We thought one of the best ways to do that would be to center them around the Eucharist,” said Cassie Erazo, youth minister of Sacred Heart Parish in Wichita Falls.

On Sept. 17, Sacred Heart hosted the first Northwest Deanery Youth Mass of the 2017-2018 school year, which was attended by 90 teens from six parishes: St. Joseph Parish in Rhineland; St. Mary Parish in Windthorst; St. Boniface Parish in Scotland; and in Wichita Falls, Sacred Heart, Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, and Immaculate Conception of Mary Parish. More than 60 family and friends of the youth also attended the Mass.

“Sometimes you see that there is even more participation from our rural parishes…. Small town parishes sometimes don’t have the resources to get their teens to diocesan events in the Fort Worth area, so they really take advantage of the opportunity to join with teens from their deanery and celebrate the faith they share,” Erazo said.

Janet Dillard, youth minister for St. Joseph, brought 30 teens more than 80 miles to Northwest Deanery Youth Mass.

“We are a rural parish, so it is an opportunity to ‘go to the city,’” Dillard said. “It is also a great opportunity to visit with other area youth they have met at previous youth Masses and retreats. It also offers a wonderful opportunity to meet other Catholic youth in our area.”

“What I enjoy about these youth Masses, dinners, and socials that follow is how amazing it is to be able to meet and interact with people who are a part of my faith whom I would never probably meet in my daily life,” said Madelyn Mendoza, a 15-year-old sophomore and member of St. Joseph.

Teens gather in a circle to participate in the game “freaky amoeba” during the Northwest Deanery social after dinner and Mass. (NTC photo/Jenara Kocks Burgess)

Susan Veitenheimer, volunteer at St. Mary and St. Boniface, said the youth Masses are great for fellowship. She explained many of the kids only see each other when they play sports against each other.

“This gives them a different venue to share their faith and meet in a different setting instead of during a competition,” she said.

“We’re a rural deanery, and there’s really only one Catholic school in our area so these kids don’t encounter other Catholic youth unless they know of kids in school. And sometimes within their own schools they don’t know that some of their classmates are Catholic. It’s just a great opportunity for them to connect with other Catholic youth and build some bonds,” said Tracy Catlin, a volunteer for Our Lady Queen of Peace.

Some teens, including those who live in the biggest town in the deanery, Wichita Falls, said they enjoy traveling to the more rural parishes such as Rhineland and Windthorst.

Caroline McGrath, a 17-year-old senior who attends Our Lady Queen of Peace, said she has really enjoyed attending the youth Mass at St. Joseph in Rhineland over the years. McGrath liked the games they played there, how attractive their church is, and the “heart-warming feeling” given by the people there.

“One nice thing about this youth Mass is that the teenagers get to show their pride in their parish by displaying what their parish has to offer,” Erazo said.

Erazo said teens support the liturgy by composing the choir and acting as greeters, ushers, lectors, altar servers, and Eucharistic Ministers.

Just like Sacred Heart had an afternoon Mass, then a dinner followed by games in the parish hall, Our Lady Queen of Peace has hosted in the past with a Mass, a meal, and then outdoor wacky Olympics.

“I think it’s a reminder to kids that [Catholicism] is a universal, international type of faith,” said Peter Nguyen, a volunteer with Immaculate Conception of Mary who brought 20 teens to the youth Mass.

Other parishes that will participate in the Northwest Deanery Youth Masses and socials this year or have participated in the past include Holy Family of Nazareth Parish in Vernon, St. Mary Parish in Quanah, St. Joseph Parish in Crowell, St. Jude Thaddeus Parish in Burkburnett, and Sacred Heart Parish in Seymour.

Immaculate Conception of Mary will host the next youth Mass on October 8. 

WICHITA FALLS — Bringing teens together to experience the universality of the Catholic Church can be challenging for rural parishes one or two hours apart and as many as three hours from major events near the diocesan offices in Fort Worth.

Published (until 10/4/2030)
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