Youth programs should be a great cause for rejoicing

Duc In Altum teams ready to go — by the red car: Michael Eastmo, Payton Miller, Alexis Cherveny, and Josiah Hanson; by the white car: John Vargo, Ashlyn Thomas, Vocations Director Father Mark McCormick, Morgan Gorman, and Parker Schlenker; by the blue car: Eric Wesolick, Emma Fulkerson, Alissa Stephens, and Iain Thomas. (Photo by Corbin Olson)

At the beginning of June, Bishop Peter commissioned three teams of college students and sent them out, crisscrossing our diocese. They are catechizing on the Beatitudes and Virtues, the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary and witnessing to the power of Jesus Christ in their lives as they shared the life-giving message of the Gospel with our children, youth and families. These six men and six women are part of Duc in Altum, our diocesan vocation program for the summer. Duc In Altum draws its name from the call of Simon the fisherman in chapter five of Luke’s gospel.

Jesus invites Simon Peter to put out into the deep water (Duc in Altum) and lower his nets for a catch. Simon Peter responds to Jesus with these words, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets” (Lk 5:5). Much to Simon Peter’s surprise, they caught a great number of fish, so many that their nets were near the breaking point.

Like Simon Peter, these 12 missionary disciples are called to work hard all summer long, repeatedly casting and pulling in their nets, packing and unpacking their vehicles, and driving from one parish to the next, week after week. And like Simon Peter, they, too, will be amazed by the number of children, youth and families whose faith is re-awakened by their evangelizing spirit.

These 12 bring me so much hope! Ten of the 12 are from our own diocese; the other two are from the Diocese of Sioux Falls. Our Catholic faith is alive in the hearts of our young people, and this should be a great cause for rejoicing!

Four of them are active in our local Newman Centers, three of them from the Newman Center at Black Hills State University in Spearfish and one from the Newman Center at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

The Duc in Altum and the Totus Tuus programs have borne much fruit in building a culture of vocations in the families and parishes of our diocese. I recall the words of St. John Paul II who spoke a number of times on the importance of “putting out into the deep.”

At the 2005 World Day of Prayer for Vocations he said, “… one needs to open one’s heart to the abundance of grace and to allow the word of the Redeemer to act with all its power: ‘Duc in altum!’ Whoever opens his heart to Christ will not only understand the mystery of his own existence, but also that of his own vocation; he will bear the abundant fruit of grace.”

This year we are trying something new in our DIA  program to keep us casting our nets out into the deep waters of faith in Christ and to continue to encourage our young people to keep their hearts open to the voice of Jesus, who is always calling them to more. We are using the book “Foundations for Discipleship” by Curtis Martin and Edward Sri, founders of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). In the evenings, we are introducing our middle and high school youth to the Win-Build-Send model of FOCUS — win their hearts for Christ, build them up in faith, and send them out to give witness to their faith.

Our DIA teams are helping them to learn how to share the Gospel message using an image drawn from the writings of St. Catherine of Siena.  She sees the Gospel message in the image of a bridge that is built on 5R’s:

  1. Relationship: What We’re Made For
  2. Rebellion: The Chasm
  3. Reconciliation: The God-Man


  1. Re-creation: Transformation in Christ
  2. Response: “Follow Me”

As part of this program, we have asked our pastors and those who work with their youth to conduct a five-week Bible study titled The CRUX

( loads/2020/11/The-Crux_Booklet.pdf) put out by FOCUS as a follow-up to Duc in Altum.

After spending a week with our young men and women, the youth of a parish will be invited to this introductory Bible study on the kerygma, the basic proclamation of the Gospel. It culminates in an invitation to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Over the years, we have seen much good fruit from our diocesan youth programs. We are hopeful that this, too, will bear abundant fruit in the lives of our young people across the diocese.