This summer, LMU welcomed a group of high school students to campus for its third Youth Theology Institute. YTI is an innovative and immersive five-day summer program where participants explore their leadership potential and spirituality. The goal is to cultivate engaged young adults who are committed to seeking justice and working towards the common good.
The Youth Theology Institute was funded by a four-year $600,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., which sponsors 82 similar programs for high school students at faith-based colleges and universities around the United States.
This year’s program took place June 18 through June 22, 2018. Participants were nominated by campus and youth ministers, as well as teachers, and represented geographically, racially, and economically diverse schools and parishes from across the region. Over the course of the five-day program, students stayed in Rains Hall and learned from each other’s life experiences.
The week was packed with discussions and field trips to faith and community organizations throughout Los Angeles, which were led by LMU graduate student mentors. Thought-provoking discussions coupled with eye-opening experiences promoted the integration of spiritual and intellectual learning.
“Teenagers are at a place in their lives where they’re asking big questions, like ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What is my role in the world?’” said Brett Hoover, theology professor at LMU. “We wanted students to learn that they can draw on the wisdom of religious traditions to negotiate those questions.”
There were many opportunities for prayer and reflection, including a candlelight service and an experience of the role of music, dance, art and sacred space in religious traditions followed by a community Mass. Inspired by a passion for a faith that does justice, students also created short films that allowed them to reflect more deeply on takeaways from the week. The Institute culminated with a showcase of these films, which excited young imaginations about continuing their faith journey.