"As young Christians, you are not only a part of the future of the Church; you are also a necessary and beloved part of the Church’s present.”
Several years ago, Pope Francis addressed over 50,000 young people from 23 countries at the 6th Asian Youth Day. This was part of his message. And what an important message it is. Encouraging young people to see themselves as a vital part of the Church now, sends a powerful message to them and to we seasoned adults. We need only to look within our own parish home to find hopeful and vibrant examples of faith lived out among our young people. Whether it is the altar servers who serve Sunday after Sunday or the teens who serve as catechist aids in sacrament preparation classes or teens who sing in various choirs--it is clear that we have a wellspring of young people who are serious about the work of the gospel.
The 2018-2019 catechetical year begins soon, and with it we will kick off our year of Youth Ministry. Our middle school program, “Sparks” is a fun environment in which talks, games, and small groups point students to the budding spark of faith within them. Our high school program, “Young Church,” named after introductory quote by the Holy Father, seeks to walk with teens during an incredibly formidable time. It is a time in which many of them grapple with hard questions and are working to make the faith handed to them by their parents, their own. Young Church nights are named for the focus of the evening which rotates between: Pray, Learn, Be, Do. On “Pray” nights, the teens attend solemn sung vespers where they are able to participate with the larger community in the night prayers of the Church. We tackle social or theological topics on “Learn” nights, and on “Do” nights we participate in an act of service. Perhaps the most important nights, though are our “Be” nights. “Be” nights are evenings of fellowship and community. The opportunity to build friendships and community with other teens within our Catholic faith is critical in the development of our youth.
The wider parish community can also play an integral role in the development of our teens by taking to heart what Pope Francis said. We can remember how important these young people are to the fabric of our church family. We can recognize their gifts and talents and encourage them when they use them for the glory of God. We can listen to them when they offer ideas and suggestions and we can be honest models of humble faith--remembering that they look to us for an authentic love of Jesus.
In your charity, pray for our teens and youth volunteers this year. May we continue to love and serve Jesus’ Church to the best of our ability.