Life as a Catholic teen in this day and age is far from easy. Young people receive so many mixed messages and are under so much peer pressure that many teens today live in an overwhelming state of confusion. Yet, as Nicki Fink, the coordinator of youth ministry for the ACC, explains, our young Catholics are hungry for truth.
“With so many things going on in society, it can be confusing for the kids to know what to believe,” Nicki says. “But kids want the truth. They thirst for it!”
What’s more, kids are curious creatures. They have lots of questions, and they need a place to ask those questions on their quest to find the truth. So, Nicki and Fr. Gabriel created the Fires with Father Ministry.
“It is a ministry open to all ACC high school students,” Nicki says. “It gives them a time and a place to ask any question they have without judgment and to get the answers they so desperately crave.”
Fires with Father, which began last May, is a ministry wherein the high schoolers meet up one Saturday a month during the school year and two Wednesdays a month in the summertime to hang out together and chat with Fr. Gabriel. In the winter months, they meet inside the open rectory in Verndale, and in the warmer months they build a fire outside and congregate around it — hence the name, Fires with Father.
“It has been an incredible ministry so far,” Nicki says. “The kids seem very comfortable asking Father questions, and he is quick to respond in a loving and informative manner. It has created such a bond between the youth and Fr. Gabriel. It has been beautiful to witness.”
What’s more, Nicki says she has witnessed bonds grow between the youth as a result of these gatherings.
“This ministry brings high school youth from all over the ACC together,” Nicki says. “I see them growing deeper in relationships with one another as they deepen their understanding of the faith together. I have even seen so many of them going to Confession regularly recently. It has been wonderful to witness.”
In addition to talking with Fr. Gabriel, the Fires with Father gatherings always include some sort of snack — typically s’mores by the fire — and a drink as well as time for fellowship and fun for the teens. If time permits, the volleyball net or a board game is set up, and the kids just hang out together.
“Bonds between the teens are so important for them,” Nicki says. “They need one another as they strive to live their faith today. So we try to make sure they have time for fellowship as well. And it has worked out great.”
Nicki is quick to point out that, as wonderfully as this ministry has served the teens of our parishes, it is not simply the work of her and Fr. Gabriel that has made that possible.
“Many of our parishioners have helped make this happen,” Nicki says. “We’ve had parishioners donate a fire pit and others have built benches for us.”
It is a work of the parishes, out of love for our teens and eagerness for them to grow in their faith. We are so excited to see this ministry continue to grow and fruitfully serve the teens for years to come!
If your teen is interested in attending the next Fires with Father event, please refer to the bulletin for the next event’s date.