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33 Youth Attend 2011 Christian Leadership Institute (CLI)


Each summer, for more than 15 years, the Diocese of Gaylord has hosted the Christian Leadership Institute (CLI) for high school teens. This year, 33 young people gathered for the 2011 CLI at the Kettunen Center in Tustin. The program brings together youth from across the diocese for prayer, worship and activities with the goal of deepening their Catholic faith while discovering their unique gifts and how they might share them with others. During the week, they learn about leadership styles, communication, group dynamics, conflict resolution and team planning skills.

“For all of us, going to CLI was a step out of our comfort zone,” said Kevin Bey, who is a member of the Gaylord Diocesan Youth Council (GDYC) and parishioner from the Alpena Catholic Community.

“We weren’t sure what was going to happen and were a bit timid at first,” Bey said. “As the week went on though we became a family that was very close. The exact same thing happened with our relationship with God. When we came, we may have had some experiences in the past that had shaken our faith or we just weren’t as close to God as we could have been. By the end of the week, we were all much closer to God and the spirit we had to go out and do His work was flowing out of all of us.”

The workshops were led by CLI alumni who leave their summer jobs and other responsibilities in order to offer teens the same opportunity and experiences they had when they were in high school. They stand as shining examples of how CLI can benefit young people and help them to serve as Christian disciples throughout their lives. Workshop leaders included alumni Amy & Seth Peters, Andrew O'Brien, Greg Janisse, Patrick Elsenheimer, Sydnee Harris, Catherine Laurion. Adult support staff included long time CLI enthusiasts Pattie Rioux, Norm Bennett and Marsha Hoppe. Tim Harris served as the music minister.

Five of the current Diocese of Gaylord seminarians also spent the week at CLI leading prayers and providing special catechesis regarding liturgy.

“It was wonderful to have all the prayer experiences were led by our seminarians,” said Rioux, who coordinated CLI again this year. “They also prepared a wonderful Reconciliation service, during which five priests joined us so we could all receive the Sacrament.”

Two of the seminarians, Will McMaster and Tyler Bischoff, are both CLI alumni. Chris Jarvis and Ben Rexroat were new to the program while Deacon Peter Wigton had experienced CLI last year as a seminarian. Fr. Gerald Okoli was also present all week, while Fr. Don Geyman spent several days with the group. They, along with Fr. Bernie Tyler, Fr. Frank Murphy and Fr. San Hoyumpa, were all there for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Always a highlight is the celebration of Mass and a commissioning service held on the last evening with the Bishop. During his homily, Bishop Hebda encouraged all of the young people to not leave their new-found skills at CLI but to go back home and share them with their parish family.

“CLI was an amazing experience that allowed us to leave all the stresses of our daily lives behind for a week and enjoy the Holy Spirit every minute we were there,” remarked Jacob Loew. “By the end of the week, we weren’t just a group of kids who went to another summer camp, we were a family and many of the people I met there will be life-long friends in Christ. To sum it up, it was the most amazing week ever! I’d have to call it a glimpse of heaven.” Loew, a parishioner at Christ the King Parish in Acme, also serves as a member of the GDYC.

Sponsored in part by gifts to the Catholic Services Appeal (CSA), the Christian Leadership Institute is one of several events offered each year through the Diocese planned specifically for youth. For more information on other activities, click here.

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