Youth reboot 1Megan Carey became the youth ministry coordinator at Saint Elizabeth Parish six months after the country locked down due to COVID-19. What should have been an exciting new-job experience filled with meeting colleagues and getting to know the many young people in our parish was instead eerily quiet, isolating, and lonely.

It was August 2020, and the new school year was about to start. Still operating in a virtual world, Megan didn’t expect that all her initial ideas to re-invigorate the youth ministry program would gain too much momentum from the middle and high-school students in our parish during lockdowns.

She was wrong. In fact, the pandemic proved an unexpected adrenaline boost for the youth ministry program as a growing number of kids, isolated with most extracurricular activities suspended, joined the Saint Elizabeth youth group for the first time. Megan knew that God had handed her an important opportunity – and she grabbed hold of it with both hands!

“I knew that one of my biggest challenges in youth ministry would be fighting for teenagers’ time,” said Megan. “They are involved in so many different activities: sports, band, theater, clubs plus schoolwork. I needed to demonstrate why it was rewarding to make time for youth group, make time for God in their lives. Then, unexpectedly, COVID freed their schedules and kids got more involved with us.” Youth reboot 2

It was a silver lining of the pandemic and an unexpected blessing amidst a very dark period, but Megan was determined to bring some light into the lives of our young people. So, Megan gave the program a makeover, initiating new activities, fun events and opportunities for service organized around different themes each month.

For example, Megan launched her “around the world” theme in September where the youth group celebrates a different saint from a different country each month. The 6th thru 12th graders learn about the selected saint and discuss his/her region’s unique Catholic traditions while enjoying food, games and other activities from that country. In October, the group celebrated Our Lady of Guadalupe and Blessed Elias del Socorro Nieves from Mexico by eating Mexican candy and playing some Mexican-themed games in honor of “Day of the Dead.” This spring, Father Kevin will lead talks about saints from various African countries.

Megan has also increased the number and variety of service projects. For instance, the first Saturday of every month is now called Stewardship Saturday and is open to all age groups. In October, they teamed up with the parish’s Crafting Hands ministry to make rosaries for donation. “I like teaming up with other ministries for service projects because it shows the kids that there are many opportunities to participate in our parish even after they age out of youth group,” said Megan.

For example, the Youth Ministry worked with the Knights of Columbus to celebrate Veteran’s Day. In December, the students brought small gifts to Eagleview Landing community residents.

“I have been attending youth group for years, but Ms. Carey has really made it a great experience,” said Luke De Ocampo, a freshman parishioner who attends Downingtown East High School. “Youth group is much more interactive now with fun activities like scavenger hunts and socials. I’m really enjoying the around-the-world saint program – January focused on the Philippines, which is where my parents are originally from.”

Megan plans to continue expanding the program, especially as the world opens back up. “I’m hoping to add more activities off-campus so the kids can see their impact outside our bubble and out in local communities around this multicultural area.”

Youth reboot 3 Given the unique and relentless stress heaped on young people, especially these days, Megan hopes that she can provide a warm and judgment-free place for teenagers. “I try to plan activities that incentivize kids to come to us instead of turning to drugs or isolation. This is a place where young people can talk freely about anything and lean on their faith amidst like-minded peers.”

For Luke, the Saint Elizabeth Youth Ministry has aided in developing friendships. “It’s all about the people,” he explained, “I’ve made some close friends and we connect through faith so I know these relationships will last. I’d love it if even more kids would come to more events. They would see how good it feels to help others with the stewardship activities like when we sang at the senior center. We brightened their days, which brightened ours.”

Thank you, Megan Carey, for persevering in this most important mission – sharing our faith to connect our parish’s young people with God. The world needs more people like you and your youth ministry program to help guide the precious youth of America now more than ever. Godspeed.

~ Lisa Barbadora

Learn More! Contact Megan Carey at 610-646-6534 or mcarey@stelizabethparish.org