Youth leadership and spiritual growth

The 2016-17 CORE Team leaders of Our Lady of Peace Parish, Williamstown pose for a photo. The CORE Team Leadership program trains high school teens to lead their peers and the youth in younger ministry programs, and also to be a witness to the entire parish community.

Youth today yearn for the truth, they yearn to be part of a group and they rise to the occasion of being leaders when the position is offered. This June I started the fifth year of Our Lady of Peace Parish (OLOPP) Youth Ministry’s CORE Team Leadership program, which is a program that trains high school teens to lead their peers and the youth in our younger ministry programs, and also to be a witness to the entire parish community.

Additionally, CORE Team helps develop youth in their personal prayer life and commitment to their faith. It is an application process where high school students are invited to apply and are later interviewed to be selected as a leader on our CORE Team for a year-long commitment, or as long as one chooses to stay on throughout their high school career.

Selected CORE Team leaders gain the benefits of attending two yearly leadership retreats, a say in developing the yearly youth group calendar, monthly prayer and planning meetings, a CORE Team T-shirt, as well as a day trip of team building activities. Some of the places we have gone for our trips in the past were rock climbing in an in-door rock gym, zip-lining in the Poconos and kayaking in Mays Landing.

What sets this group apart from our regularly attended youth ministry programs for high school students is that these are the youth who have a desire to serve and grow in their own spiritual life. These teens have given presentations to our youth ministry programs on various topics, such as the saints, purity, temptations, what it means to be pro-life and many other spiritual topics that are of interest to our young church. They are also the youth asked to perform various service tasks, including cleaning up each morning after our parish carnival, handing out programs at the recent diaconate ordination held at OLOPP and setting up for weekly youth group meetings and events.

These teens also are invited to develop a deeper relationship with Christ and Our Lady through our monthly meetings, which always begin with reciting the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet; followed by a discussion on how their own faith life, personal life and prayer-life are going. A tradition of our CORE Team Retreats is Mass followed by all-night Adoration where the leaders volunteer to be with Jesus for an hour during the night. Core Team members develop leadership through being held accountable to higher standards in their personal life from what they post on social media to how they conduct themselves in school.

To be a true leader is to set a good example. A simple way that this is put in the CORE Team application is: “You are asked to constantly strive to be the person God created you to be.”

The fruits of the CORE Team are beginning to be seen now five years later. There is a page on our website,, for “CORE Team.” On the lower section of that page you see “CORE Team Updates,” which is where we highlight college students who were once a part of CORE Team during their high school years and how CORE Team helped them get where they are today.

Here you will find a mix of current seminarians for the Diocese of Camden, those who went on mission trips to other countries, a president of a Newman Club, which is the Catholic Campus Ministry at public college or university, and those involved in other ministries on their college campuses.

When we offer youth these opportunities in their faith and within the church we truly can see what seeds God is planting and watering as they rise up as leaders of our young church. I hope you enjoy hearing from the former CORE Team members about how CORE team helped them become the spiritual leaders they are today.

— “CORE Team has helped me develop my leadership skills and grow in confidence in myself and in Jesus and all that He calls me to do.” -Sarah

— “CORE Team has helped me become more aware of those less fortunate through various acts of service, and has certainly helped prepare me to bring Christ to the people of Nicaragua on my mission trips.” -Joe

— “Being a member of CORE Team not only inspired me to pursue my faith in college, but also gave me the tools to be an effective leader in ministry. I learned not just how to be a leader, but how to lead through service and radiate Christ.”-Alex

— “CORE Team has definitely played a crucial role in developing and equipping me with keen leadership skills and extensive knowledge of the faith.”-Jared

— “CORE Team was a huge part of my life and it prepared me to be able to build my confidence in my abilities by strengthening my faith in God’s guidance for me and surrounding me with truly great people that worked so selflessly to help others and each other. I’ll always be grateful for it.”-Adwoa

— “CORE Team has given me invaluable experiences and memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It has provided me a strong foundation for the work of leadership the Lord has given me today as a college student.”-Kim

Kari Janisse has been the Coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Williamstown since 2009. She leads programs for youth starting in third grade through young adults up to 28 years old. She also leads programs outside of the parish called, “+he ROCK,” which are Catholic Clubs at local high schools.