Youth in Theology and Ministry (YTM) Student Presentations

Sister Gloria Haider
Sister Loretta Denfeld welcomed four presenters and two leaders from the St. John’s YTM program on Friday, June 19, in St. Francis Hall. The presenters were Michael Braudis and Merina Malofou from St. Anthony’s Parish, Anchorage, Alaska, Lesly Gonzalez-Barragan from Sacred Heart Parish, St. Paul, and Andrew Manning from Christ Our Light Parish, Princeton/Zimmerman. The group leaders were Bonnie Cler and Kyle Lamb. Sister Loretta told the presenters that she knows that their projects have brought new life to their parishes. She said she hopes the new life will continue into the future.

“Helping Hands” is the name of the project that Michael and Merina presented. In their early planning they decided they wanted to involve the St. Anthony Parish youth group in their project so the youth could become acquainted with various problems in their community. Every month from October until May they involved the youth in various works. For example, in October they made sandwiches and donated them to the Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage, Alaska. In March they cleaned up trash around the church and neighborhood. In May they had a Water Walk to help raise money for access to clean water in Ghana.
Andrew Manning’s project was “Lenten Prayer Warriors.” He held prayer classes during Lent to teach various prayer forms to high school youth at Christ Our Light Parish. Andrew wanted the youth to know that there are many ways to pray. He taught the history of each prayer form and had the youth experience the prayer form. He used music along with reflection and small group discussion in each session. He said at least five youth consistently attended. Next year he will open up the sessions to adults along with the youth.

Lesly Gonzalez-Barragan from Sacred Heart Parish in St. Paul called her project “Grupo Esperanza” meaning Hope Group. This project started as an idea in 2013 by Jose Morales, a Confirmation Catechist in her parish. Lesly said that the Latino members of the parish needed a safe place to grow spiritually and a way to help parishioners to stop themselves from stereotyping minorities. Today the group has 10 members, mostly all members of the Confirmation class of 2014. Her project consisted of Confirmation classes, retreats, a Communion Retreat, Three Kings Day and a Virgen de Guadalupe play. This was the first year that youth were allowed to reenact the play. Lesly is hoping that more youth, both Latino and Caucasian, will join Grupo Esperanza.

It was wonderful to hear how, through their projects, all four presenters had grown in their faith and in their ability to be confident leaders in the future. They all were very prayerful, creative young people with a great desire to live their faith and spread the Gospel to others. Before they left, Sister Elise Saggau gave them a short tour of the Convent and told them a couple of stories related to Saint Francis. They returned to St. John’s for their last week at the YTM program.


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The Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, Minnesota, is a community of Catholic women religious who follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ, walking in the footsteps of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi. We believe that the living of a poor, simple and prayerful community life is a ministry of presence and witness. Our doors are open to the public to celebrate Mass in Sacred Heart Chapel and to benefit from the St. Francis Music Center and St. Francis Health & Recreation Center. We welcome those who wish to join us as sisters, associates, volunteers, transfer sisters, friends and donors.


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