The past year has contained many exciting opportunities for growth and proclaiming the Good News! I am happy to share some of these opportunities with you.
Youth Leadership Training
The Wholeheartedly Youth Leadership Training, which we have organized with the Archdiocese of Gyulafehérvár for the past seven years, offers participants eight months of in-depth training and mentoring. This helps them acquire a personal relationship with God and a stable prayer time and helps them heal from their spiritual wounds. By the conclusion of the program, they can build and lead teams, manage different situations and people, and be role models.
My main role is to help with the training’s spiritual side, especially with Saturday night adoration and organizing and guiding the prayer meetings. I gave lectures, held trainings, and led practice sessions on personal relationship with God, prayer life, personality of a leader, leadership and developmental stages of a community, and evangelization.
This year, we had forty-eight participants and offered basic training, training for worship leaders, and additional opportunities for advanced leaders. Some past graduates were even a part of our team!
The Holy Spirit moved powerfully during the trainings. During the first weekend, the Holy Spirit filled the room and our hearts. The event ended, but nobody wanted to leave. Many of the youth and some of the organizers encountered God like never before. A team member studying to become a religion teacher said that before the training, he thought he knew everything there was to know about a personal relationship with God, but now he truly experienced being filled with the Holy Spirit.
A similar format has become the structure for all our Saturday nights. It is something familiar that the youth look forward to and feel safe in. They indicated that this was where God made the biggest changes within them.
At the end of the training, participants shared many testimonies like the following one:
“The training strengthened my faith. The teachings and the community helped me grow in my relationship with God. I did not have a well-balanced spiritual life but here I came to the conviction that life is much better if you try to live it with God. My prayer life has grown and now I dedicate more time to God in my day-to-day life.”
They also reported feeling well-equipped to handle a wide array of situations within their other ministry work:
“A troublesome youth was assigned to a group I was working with. The situation escalated to the point that they were seriously considering sending him home. When asked about the situation, I was adamant about the person staying. I truly believed I could work with the person. By the end of the five-day meeting, the youth was reformed and not causing trouble anymore. If not for the Wholeheartedly training, I would not have been able to overcome this situation.”
We now have behind us a new generation of talented and committed youth who can do this work wonderfully! This process of renewal will not end with us; they can keep the flame going. For the dioceses, this means forty to fifty well-trained leaders. The entire youth ministry is thus renewed. God’s is the glory, ours is the joy!
Adventure camps are our most effective method of spreading the Good News to the youth. This year was challenging for many reasons. The neighboring war caused prices to skyrocket. As a result, we moved the camp to a beautiful village parish with good infrastructure served by a charismatic priest who is a good spiritual friend of mine. He initially refused to charge us but finally accepted a nominal amount to repaint youths’ dormitories and modernize the showers and plumbing before we arrived. It was wonderful to have a church and a priest on site for the entire camp!
The other difficulty was finding a good spot for our rock climbing, caving, and survival activities. Finding all the necessary places for our activities and instruction took about a week of working from sunup to sundown. Ultimately, God provided for everything—sometimes through big and small miracles that astonished us.
The first miracle was the weather. This village is in the mountains, so when it starts raining—which happens frequently—it continues for days. In fact, it rained until the very moment we arrived at camp. The local youth told us there was such a big thunderstorm, they were afraid to leave their homes. While we were there, the weather was perfect.
Both camps were at the maximum number of participants. On the last night, we camped on a small island where we had organized survival activities. The forecast predicted bleak weather for the next day, and clouds were starting to gather. We had a wonderful time. The youth had the opportunity to light the fire and fry sausages, as we had taught them to. It was raining north and south of us, but we stayed dry. God held out his hands above us. We stayed up well into the night, the youth played on their guitars, and we gazed at the stars. The downpour hit while we were driving home the next day. Cars were stopping in the middle of the road because visibility was below thirty feet. We stopped as well. We thanked God that this did not happen during the camps.
God granted us another tremendous blessing when someone lost the keys to the minibus in a nearly thirty-two-square-mile area. I thought that if we did not find the keys, it could lessen the youths’ conviction toward prayer in general. Then, one of them found the keys in the forest’s underbrush! The only thing I can do in situations like this is fall to my knees. The Lord is truly mighty! That day, we had roamed through the forest, ran, jumped, and crawled on the ground. Those keys could have fallen anywhere. We should have never been able to find them, but with God, we can do all things.
I felt like the apostles; they thought they already knew the Lord well—and then He calmed the storm, and they were dumbfounded. It was a big miracle for all of us to see the power of prayer and what the Lord can do.
It also was wonderful to see the youth change before our very eyes. One young man did not want to hear anything about church when he arrived. He went home from camp and became an active member of his local youth community. Once, we even had to delay the start of Mass because the line for confession kept going! As one leader said, “we saw kids come to Jesus, experience the touch of the Holy Spirit, and be filled with the love of the Father.”
Another essential part of our work in Romania is helping communities and organizing retreat days. Our work has helped the number of these communities grow exponentially—thanks in part to new communities being born and strengthened where people had not yet been familiar with the renewal.
One group I greatly enjoy visiting is in Tarcea. The members are primarily poor and elderly—but I have never seen such strong prayer. We spend hours in worship. Another place I love visiting is in Cluj. These youth were not yet born back when we started helping this community. They love us, and it is always a packed house when we visit. It is an important community because a significant number of the intellectuals of Transylvania receive their higher education in this city. If they are converted and filled with the Holy Spirit, once they finish their studies and go home, there will be people that God can use all over the country.
I had many positive experiences when other brothers and sisters in Christ accompanied me on these trips. God uses them, and their presence positively affects our ministry. I have learned that it does not matter how old someone is—God can use them. Through the people who accompanied me, God touched the hearts of those I might not have been able to reach on such a personal level.
Here is one testimony from Magdolna Boér, who accompanied me on a trip:
“I had gone with Tibi to visit other communities, but this trip was to be for multiple days. I declined at first because of my age. I am seventy-one. I have many ailments and thought I could not endure the trip. But I felt like God was calling me. Finally, I said yes. It was a beautiful missionary journey. It was good to praise the Lord with the wonderful community. I have been widowed twice and have no children. I shared my testimony about God’s love and how He takes care of me. At the end of the event, many people surrounded me and wanted to talk with me. There was also a university student who waited for everyone else to leave so that he could talk to me in peace. I met brothers and sisters with whom I am still in contact today. We arrived home with great joy and enriched in spirit. We prayed and worshipped the Lord the entire way home. Praise and thanks to God for everything!”
Our school retreat ministry also was powerful this year. In Oradea, there is a Catholic school attended by about nine-hundred students. Due to various factors, many students pick this school even though they are not religious. The school holds two annual retreat days that I have been going to for some time. After a day of Mass and talks, the students return to their classrooms to hear from special guests. Some time ago, I asked the principal to send me to a problematic class. She directed me to the real black sheep, who I began visiting regularly and not just on retreat days.
This year, my first group met in the sports hall with no chairs or microphone. It was a rainy day, which was loud against the metal roof of the sports hall. I tried to do my best, speaking loudly (but not shouting) to be interactive and to use stories and examples they like and understand. It went well; they were listening and interacting with me.
The principal asked me to visit another class afterward. She said nobody else wanted to go to this class. They suggested that I wear a bulletproof vest. The students are indeed misbehaved, but I have visited them twice since then, and I already see signs of improvement even though we are at the beginning of our journey. They come from very difficult backgrounds and have received the same thing from everyone throughout their lives—judgment, expectation, and scolding. I try to simply love them; someone needs to. As the weather gets better, I plan to take them on a trip into the mountains.
At the change in school years, many of the students transferred elsewhere. I learned, however, that when the students who stayed found out I would be going to a different class than theirs, they started skipping their own classes to attend the one where I was present. I simply thought they were also in the class I was speaking to. I only realized what was happening when they said at the end that they had better get going back to their own class. Their faces are hard to read, and it is hard to gauge how much things I say touch them. I would not have thought my time with the boys meant enough for them to skip their class for it. What they did strengthened me. May the name of the Lord be praised!
This year was blessed. God is building something with our help, the Good News is being spread, and we are the facilitators of the renewal. I am grateful to God—and to everyone who has supported this work—for every moment.
This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ April 2023 newsletter.