Tri-parishes in Durand
Monica Heitman leads youth to Jesus through adoration
Visiting Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament has always been a part of Monica Heitman’s life. As a youth minister of the tri-parishes of St. Mary’s in Durand, Sacred Heart in Mondovi and Holy Rosary in Lima, Monica has worked to create welcoming programs and opportunities for youths, many centering around adoration.
Durand is Monica’s hometown and also where she and her husband, Dallas, raised their four children. She has been involved with various aspects of youth ministry and religious education for roughly 44 years, and took on her current position and responsibilities in 2006.
Monica organizes retreats, rallies, trips and youth and family activities for the Tri-parishes, always inviting neighboring parishes within the deanery to participate. She also coordinates their confirmation program and youth group for students in grades 6-12.
In 1996, Monica helped to organize the Tri-parishes’ first trip to the Steubenville Youth Conference, and has since helped coordinate and chaperone 20 return trips. Over the years, she has taken three of her children and two grandchildren to experience the conferences with her.
“After first attending the conferences, adoration has become an important experience to share with youth, for me,” Monica says. “The love Christ has for them is often poured out during adoration, whether in the quiet before the tabernacle, in the monstrance or with a large group at a retreat or conference.”
But Monica’s devotion to the practice of adoration began long before her first Steubenville experience. Growing up in a very active Catholic family that attended St. Mary’s Parish in Durand, she remembers attending “30-hour-adoration” at her parish where she, her Catholic school class and even her Girl Scout group would sign up for a time slot to spend an hour before the Blessed Sacrament. Even though there is no perpetual adoration chapel nearby, Monica has always made it a part of her prayer life to visit Jesus, usually before the tabernacle in the quiet of the church.
In her youth, Monica recalls the Church as the “center” of social life for her family and friends. Today, in the wake of so many youth activities offered outside the church, the increase in youth getting jobs and the prevalence of technology capturing their attention, the culture has shifted away from that dynamic.
“As other opportunities have became more of a priority to people,” Monica explains, “there seems to be less and less time and encouragement from parents for the youth to be involved in Church activities.”
But Monica works to develop and organize dynamic retreats and youth trips, holds consistent youth group meetings and something she calls “Open Door Tuesdays,” where students of any age can visit her office after school to wait for a ride, enjoy some fellowship and games and be fed. She deliberately works to make herself available. Her commitment to the youth and the programs she offers also brings some college students back during their breaks to revisit the community that has been built through the youth fellowship in Christ.
When asked what advice she has for others taking up the challenge of working with youths in the Church, she says: “Prayer and patience! Accept youth where they are and spend time refueling your own spiritual life to continue to be able to give of yourself.”
“It’s OK, no matter what happens for you [in adoration], because the Holy Spirit is going to come to each of you in a different way.”
She also warns to not look for success in large numbers, but if you have helped even one youth to increase their faith throughout your career, you can count yourself successful.
Seeing a great need to bring quiet and rest into the lives of the youths she serves, Monica often takes students into the church to pray before the tabernacle. Especially for those who are preparing for confirmation, she works to help instill an openness to the workings of the Holy Spirit.
Monica has seen beautiful fruits from the practice and has inspiring stories of students touched by their adoration experiences. “After attending an Immersion Retreat and experiencing adoration, a young lady that was with us who was not Catholic had a great conversion. She was baptized and confirmed a few months later. This has actually happened several times over the past years.” Experiences like these keep Monica motivated to bring youths to Jesus.
“Seeing the joy in their eyes and experiencing the love Jesus pours out while at adoration is the best of all rewards for a youth minister,” she shares.
For her students encountering adoration for the first time, as it would also apply to any of us who visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, Monica prepares them for their experience. She says they may not feel something today or next week or even next month, but it’s the planting of a seed for the Holy Spirit to work within you.
“It’s OK, no matter what happens for you, because the Holy Spirit is going to come to each of you in a different way. And it might not be that you’re going to have the experience now, today, because we don’t know when He’s going to work in you. It could be a message that stays on your heart for a long time that just did not really become something you were fully aware of until the right time.”
By Amy Eichsteadt
Photography by Michael Lieurance