Let it Go (Giving up Control): Reflections on FREEDOM

On Friday night, we held FREEDOM – our annual reconciliation event for youth – at St. Joseph Parish in Langley. Close to 300 teens and young adults packed the parish hall for an evening of prayer, worship, praise, skits, witness, and catechesis.

freedomcollageAlso, there were over a dozen priests (including Archbishop Michael) present to hear confessions. I spoke to a couple of them and they said that the quality of the confessions was really good. I’ve also heard priests in the past say that the event affirms their priesthood. That’s kinda cool.

You know what else is cool? The fact that the Langley parishes of St. Joseph and St. Nicholas took complete ownership of the event. They chose their own emcees, guest speakers, skits, music, and prayer activities. They designed all the decorations, planned the snacks and refreshments, and came up with posters and a Facebook page to promo the event.

As the archdiocesan Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office, our role was relatively limited to a consultative one. Following in the footsteps of Richmond’s St. Joseph the Worker Parish last year and Port Coquiltam’s Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in 2013, the youth and young adults of the local parishes put their own stamp on the event and made it their own.

Quite frankly, it’s probably the primary reason why the FREEDOM events the past few years have been so successful.

I’m really happy to see FREEDOM moving in the direction of giving the hosting parish(es) the freedom (pun completely intended) and autonomy to make decisions and design the program using the gifts and talents of their own people.

This concept wouldn’t work if we at the OYYAM were control freaks. Or if we were too proud to let go of the decision-making. Or if we didn’t trust others to do a good job.

But the proof was in the proverbial pudding on Friday night. It was a great event.

Emcees Scott and Daniel
Emcees Scott and Daniel


Here are four reasons why it makes sense for us to delegate, give up control, and “let it go”:

1.  Ownership creates buy in.

We were thrilled when the two Langley parishes accepted our invitation to host the event. I think the realized right away that they’d be able to get buy-in from their communities.

When something is yours, you tend to do everything in your power to protect it, nurture it, and ensure it succeeds. In some cases, there might be a certain pride in hosting an “archdiocesan event” and hosting Archbishop Michael. You undoubtedly want to put your best foot forward and to celebrate, affirm, and promote the gifts of your local community.

You could tell that the youth and young adult volunteers were excited to host. This enthusiasm likely rubbed off on others. And by taking ownership of the event, all of the volunteers knew that they would have a part in the success – or failure – of the event.  Thanks in large part to the dedication and maturity of the volunteers, the event was an unequivocal success.

Archbishop Michael encouraging the youth


2.  Different ideas and resources.

If we had the OYYAM do all the planning for this year’s FREEDOM, it may have looked and felt similar to past FREEDOM events. It’s a natural tendency to stick with what you know will work, at the risk of becoming complacent.

However, when we handed the creative control and decision-making authority to the Langley parishes, they got creative and brought many new ideas to the table; ideas that we likely wouldn’t have thought of or considered.

The two parishes had a good idea of what resources they had access to (ie. music ministry, food volunteers, etc) and were in a better place than us to strategically involve certain people.

3.  Affirmation for those involved.

The volunteers were a good mix of people who have been involved in Archdiocesan initiatives and people who haven’t. Thus, we recognized many of the people but there was a good number who we didn’t recognize.

They can rest assured knowing that they did a good job. Working on the event undoubtedly was good for their morale, and it helped them sharpen their leadership skills.

Ultimately, many of the volunteers will have improved for the experience and thus be more confident leaders moving forward. This will benefit both their own parishes and the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

Peter and Amy at the end of a drama


4.  More time for other things.

This year was a perfect example of how delegating responsibilities can free up time and energy. A lot of our time and energy recently has gone towards our building move (both moving out of the old Pastoral Centre and moving into our new one). Add in Youth Day planning, Searching in the Spirit interviews, getting some strategy documents ready, and our other daily work and you can see it’s been a busy few weeks.

Knowing that FREEDOM was in capable hands, we ensured we didn’t spread ourselves too thin. It enabled us to work smarter and focus on what we needed to.


Could there have been elements that worked better? Of course. There’s no such thing as a perfect event.

But one thing’s for certain: FREEDOM was so successful because of the outstanding work of the host parishes. They took the ball and ran with it…much to the delight of just about everyone.

Going forward, I don’t anticipate us at the OYYAM having any problem in continuing to “let it go” with respect to planning this event.

Less work never bothered me anyway.

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