Prayer and spirituality central to young participants
The annual Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI) was held June 19-24 on the campus of Benedictine University in Springfield. This year 37 individuals, including youth participants and their leaders, spent the first days of summer concentrating on leadership and communication skills, liturgy planning, community building and group dynamics.
The youth participants came to CLI on the recommendation of their pastor or youth minister, said Becky Bauerle, who was one of the CLI coordinators along with Brian Pekovitch and Missy Mark. Bauerle, who has been involved with the program for over 20 years, said it is common for some of the youth to return to CLI to take part in more advanced teen theology work or to act as CLI volunteers.
Prayer and spirituality are vitally important to those who are attending or leading CLI, said Mark. “We want people to know that and see that they are praying,” she said.
Diocesan seminarian Hyland Smith was involved in another leadership role. Father Daren Zehnle, associate director of vocations, also spent time with the teens as did two Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George — Sister M. Mercedes Diaz, FSGM, and Sister M. Clementia Toalson, FSGM.
On June 22, Father Alford led the group in a rosary for Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, who was celebrating the one-year anniversary of his installation as bishop of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Father Alford was also available to celebrate Mass at the chapel.
“This is my fourth year at CLI, so I was here as a seminarian,” Father Alford said. “I’ve seen CLI make a positive impact on the lives of these kids. Every kid walks away with something new.”
On June 23, Bishop Paprocki joined the group for morning prayer, breakfast and a short question-and-answer session. That visit meant a lot to the young people, said Bauerle. “These are the future leaders of the church,” she said. “It was nice to have their shepherd there. They really appreciated it.”
In all, six priests were on hand for the sacrament of reconciliation. They included Fathers Alford and Zehnle as well as Fathers Tom Donovan, Bob Jallas, Angel Sierra and Stephen Thompson.
At CLI, each day begins and ends with prayer. In between, participants attend workshop sessions, listen to speakers, discuss spirituality, complete fun exercises and sessions that teach them how to work together with others, and attend several Masses. The students are divided up into teams and each team is in charge of planning a liturgy.
“I tell them this is the place where they get to practice,” Bauerle said. “So, when they go back to the parish they’ll know how to be a lector, or whatever it is they need to do.”
CLI is sponsored by the diocesan Office for Catechesis — Ministry to Youth and Young Adults. This year’s students hailed from Casey, Collinsville, Edwardsville, Greenfield, Jacksonville, Maryville, Moweaqua, Sherman, Springfield and Vandalia.