WASHINGTON (November 18, 1998)-- The U.S. Bishops' Subcommittee on Youth today launched a program, called Communities for Youth, aimed at helping at-risk youth across the nation in cooperation with America's Promise - The Alliance for Youth.
America's Promise is an initiative headed by General Colin Powell to provide at-risk youth with resources needed for productive and fulfilling lives.
They include access to ongoing relationships with caring adults, safe places and structured activities, health care, development of marketable skills and opportunities to serve in order to attain the confidence, character and competence needed to contribute to society.
Bishop Roger Schwietz of Duluth, Minnesota, announced the partnership between the Subcommittee and America's Promise in Washington and cited it as an important step in implementing the U.S. Bishops' Renewing The Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry, approved in 1997.
"As we near the Millennium, we unite with all the U.S. Bishops in their call to work for and with youth," said Bishop Schwietz. "With over 60 million Catholics in the United States, this is an opportunity to touch the lives of a great number of young people and make a difference."
The effort for at-risk youth will be piloted in three dioceses, the Archdiocese of Miami, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri and the Diocese of Phoenix.
Noting the needs outlined by America's Promise, each diocese will mobilize its resources for youth and explore new ways to serve young people at-risk.
At the conclusion of the pilot program, the Youth Subcommittee will gather the data, evaluate the lessons learned, and recommend a national model for other U.S. dioceses to utilize.
Bishop Raymond Boland of Kansas City-St. Joseph noted that his diocese includes more than 15,000 square miles in Northwest Missouri and more than 44,000 young people. Currently, diocesan parishes, schools, and social service agencies provide direct services to over 27,500 young people.
Its recent Diocesan Millennium Study cited the need for initiatives to improve the lives of children and youth within their communities, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
"It is a remarkable coincidence that the recommendations of our Millennium Study for youth initiatives are almost duplicated by America's Promise," said Bishop Boland. "For this reason we are delighted to be selected as a pilot diocese for this initiative and we strive to enhance the lives of our young people here in the heartland of America."
The diocese will invite every parish, diocesan office, and institution to address one of the needs outlined by America's Promise. The diocese also is urging parishes to examine local needs and to work with other faith denominations, organizations, and agencies to address them. The pilot is planned for 2 years.
In the Archdiocese of Miami, church officials see a continuing flow of immigrants, many of them young people, from the Caribbean, South, and Central America.
Archbishop John C. Favalora of Miami notes that Church social services there help all people, not just the archdiocese's 1.3 million Catholics. Already the archdiocese offers numerous programs for Hispanics and Haitians, the largest cultural groups in the area. The area has a high index of crime, violence, and poverty, with the most serious effects experienced by children and youth. In October alone, Miami had two fatal incidents in its public high schools. Young people are lured into gangs and drug dealing and consumption at very early ages.
For its pilot project, the Miami Archdiocese will develop a "safety net" whereby young people can be connected to services meeting the needs outlined by America's Promise. To promote health and education, for example, youth will be connected with already existing educational and health care programs. Other efforts will be developed to address unmet needs outlined by America's Promise. For example, parishes will be targeted to develop after-school programs, including mentoring, and service projects, to provide young people with an opportunity to contribute to their community.
The Diocese of Phoenix, which includes four major counties in central and northwestern Arizona, including Phoenix, operates an active Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. In 1993 it designated an office for a Coordinator of At-Risk Resources, one of the few such offices in the country. The office provides training and resources to pastors, youth ministers and others who work with at-risk young people.
The office also works within the state juvenile detention facilities and efforts include follow-up services for young people when they re-enter their community.
For this pilot project, Bishop Thomas O'Brien of Phoenix has approved an effort concentrating on a 4-square mile neighborhood, the most troubled in the area. Efforts include linking families and young people to community organizations and resources.
Color photographs of the announcement, with the bishops and General Colin Powell, are available to the media by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.