Julia Shannon, 18, of Oro-Medonte, Ont., is grateful that the ministry organization ProjectYM is providing programming to nourish youth spirituality during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo courtesy of Julia Shannon

ProjectYM Live providing welcome optimism

By  Mary French, Youth Speak News
  • June 10, 2020

Even when the stress, fear and confusion of life continue to pile up, Julia Shannon has uncovered a source of stability and positivity that she can turn to every week.

Shannon, 18, is just one of the many youths throughout Canada finding inspiration and courage by maintaining a peer faith community on the Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am very grateful that in the midst of all this, I can put my trust in God, knowing He is in control,” said Shannon, who lives in Oro-Medonte, Ont., near the shores of Lake Simcoe. “Meeting in community allows me to refocus for the week ahead.”

To aid in feeding youth faith communities, ProjectYM — a Tennessee-based organization providing resources for youth ministers — launched a program called ProjectYM Live on March 22. This weekly live webcast features games, praise and worship, and guest speakers such as Fr. Mike Schmitz and chastity speaker Jason Evert.

Initially hoping to reach at least a handful of parishes, the program has now been seen by more than 11,000 students across the U.S. and in Canada, mainly British Columbia and Ontario.

“You cannot assume you can place a pause on spiritual development during quarantine and then continue when we get back into the faith community,” said ProjectYM’s founder and director Michael Marchand. “If you are ‘stagnant’ in your faith journey, you are actually going backwards in it.”

The danger of this stagnancy is something teens like Shannon know all too well.

“When we don’t visibly see God working, for some, it can be harder to keep the faith,” said Shannon. “Community events like Project YM Live help to maintain that faith.”

Shannon — along with other young followers of Christ in the program — emphasize that these virtual meetings keep the feeling of community alive and help bolster one-on-one relationships with God.

“During the last session, we put forth the question of how you would support a friend who is struggling right now, and we each took turns sharing suggestions,” says Shannon. “A lot of people have friends who are hit harder by the situation than others, so it was great to discuss that.”

“We have been able to start conversations that needed to happen, but probably wouldn’t have without the prompt of ProjectYM Live,” said Grace Barks, a 16-year-old from Sugarbush, Ont. “These meetings are important because it gives people a place to go, a routine, and keeps people active in the faith. Having this outlet brings us back to where we should be.”

Through participation in group discussions and by helping lead praise and worship amongst her peers, Barks said the program has given her the opportunity to both grow personally and reach out to others.

These virtual youth group nights during quarantine have been especially helpful in creating a support team.

“Connections with peers who have similar interests, connections and faith is hard to find,” said Shannon. “You can have different conversations with people your age than you can with your family. It’s nice to know there are other people like you out there.”

More information about ProjectYM Live is at projectym.com.

(French is a third-year student at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont.)

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