Evangelizing neighborhood youth

Seminarian Jesus Banuelos has been evangelizing to Wichita youth in the Wichita neighborhood he grew up in. One of those places is at Underground a youth activity center located at Waco and 13th streets in Wichita. (Advance photo)

Seminarian Jesus Banuelos shares Gospel with North High area teens

WICHITA – When Andy Churray visited the St. Joseph House of Formation a couple of years ago to talk about Vagabond Missions, he immediately caught Jesus Banuelos’ attention.

“I have a connection with the youth they’re targeting,” he said earlier this month. “I came from the north side. I know the entire north side and I went to North High School.”

Banuelos, a seminarian of the Diocese of Wichita, is spending his summer assisting Churray as a missionary to Wichita youth.

Back in the neighborhood

He said he comes from similar circumstances: being culturally Catholic and never really embracing the faith.

“But the Lord has drawn me to himself by the example of others,” he said. “I saw Christ through them. There was something different about them – they were affected by Truth.”

Churray is the Wichita area director for Vagabond Missions, which is headquartered in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and has ministry sites in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Carolina.

Banuelos said he has enjoyed getting to know the Hispanic youth in the North High neighborhood, many of whom may be culturally Catholic but who haven’t fully embraced the faith.

Back to school in August

He will be working with the ministry until early August when he will return for his second year at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.
Banuelos said Vagabond reaches out to youth in several ways.

The first is inviting the youth – Catholic and non-Catholic – to Sunday Mass. “A lot of the Catholic youth are baptized, have made their First Communion and have been confirmed, but rarely go to Mass,” he said.

The ministry missionaries take the youth to Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, he said. “The intention is to get across the idea that, ‘Hey, these guys are cool!’”

After Mass, they will have lunch together. “Sometimes we’ll ask them what they thought about Mass. It opens up a conversation,” Banuelos said.
On Mondays, they open Underground, a large activity room located near North High at Waco and 13th streets. “They come in and if they want, we’ll pick them up, and we just hang out there,” he said.

The teens can play video games, billiards, and take part in other activities there.

Becoming friends

“We get to know them and find out where they’re at,” Banuelos said. “That’s the active approach. The more passive aspect is simply seeking to be Christ in their daily lives so, hopefully, they might say, ‘Hey. There’s something different about these people.’”

He said he and the others involved in the ministry hope their example brings them to Christ.

Youth get another chance to attend Mass on Wednesdays when a Bible study is also held by Vagabond. “We hope to help them realize that the Bible is not just a book, it’s the word of God. To help them see that and to be affected by truth, by Christ.”

And there’s Park Night, he said, when youth are invited to gather and have fun and hang out at one of the area’s city parks. “We buy a lot of pizza! The kids can’t resist pizza.”

Vagabond is about growing in friendship with each other and with the Lord, Banuelos said,“where they can see us living and imitating Christ.”