Youth programs essential to maintaining Catholic identity

Youth from St. Joseph Church in Tontitown demonstrate their beliefs at the state Capitol during the March for Life in Little Rock Jan. 21.
Youth from St. Joseph Church in Tontitown demonstrate their beliefs at the state Capitol during the March for Life in Little Rock Jan. 21.

Even nice Catholic kids can get distracted.
“One of the things I get concerned about is if our Church doesn’t provide for spiritual growth for youths, they will get sucked into all kinds of other religious activities,” said Brother Tobias DeSalvo, OSB, of Subiaco Abbey.
Brother Tobias is a member of the diocesan Adult Advisory Council, a post he’s held since 2000. In a state where Catholics are a minority and where evangelical pressure from other, well-funded denominations is high, teens may see greener spiritual pastures elsewhere.
“Too often, they’ll head to another church instead of seeing the treasure they’ve got,” he said.

How to support CASA
Catholic Arkansas Sharing Appeal is the Diocese of Little Rock’s annual fund-raiser to support diocesan ministries and services offered to parishes, schools and individuals. To make a donation, pick up a pledge card at a local parish, call (501) 664-0340 or visit

With thousands of Catholic youth in Arkansas, it’s important to find and maintain ways to reach them and Liz Tingquist, diocesan director of youth ministries, has her work cut out for her. She’s aided in her work by the Adult Advisory Council and the Youth Advisory Council. Both councils provide the vision, direction, planning and implementation of youth programs for the Diocese of Little Rock.
Tingquist, who ran a youth program at North Little Rock’s Immaculate Conception Church for 11 years, works hard to keep the flame burning for Arkansas’ youths through key diocesan youth activities. With 3,000 to 4,000 youth participating every year, her work is reaping rewards. She and Tricia Gentry, who works part-time from the diocesan office, rely on the enthusiasm and energy of both adult volunteers and youth participants to bring to life events such as:
Search for Christian Maturity, a peer ministry that is a spiritual formation retreat for high school juniors and seniors.
Junior High Spring Thing and the fall Junior High Spectacular for grades 6-8.
Weekend Extravaganza, which coincides with the March for Life weekend that attracts 700 to 800 high school youth a year.
An annual state CYM Convention, a three-day event with speakers, breakout sessions, awards banquet and Mass.
Maria Baltz, 17, of Pocahontas, is a believer in the youth programs. She is a member of the Diocesan Youth Advisory Council and liturgy committee for the Search team.
“I’ve just seen a lot of my friends after they’ve gone to these conventions that we’ve put on,” she said. “They get real inspired by it. It makes me want to help them carry out God’s way for us.”
These programs, however, aren’t free. The Catholic Arkansas Sharing Appeal, CASA, is a major contributor to the diocesan youth programs.
“This year, CASA gave $30,000 and my budget for this year is a little more than $81,000,” Tingquist said. “CASA helps us operate. All of our programs are on a break-even basis. If we lived in an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to charge for anything. That CASA money is $30,000 we don’t have to collect in fees.”
Despite the lean budgets, and challenges of distance and time, the hard work of youth ministers and volunteers speaks for itself.
“These programs are really good for our Catholic kids, on the diocesan level and parishes too,” Brother Tobias said. “We need to keep the kids involved in their churches and interested in their Church.”

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