Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I think all of us would agree that one of the greatest concerns of Catholics today is the fact that so few young people remain faithful to the Church. Statistics show that 50% of former Catholics leave the Church by the time they are 18, and 80% by the time they are 23. It’s very easy to point to the secularism of the times and the many factors that work against the faith, but at some point we have to stop and ask ourselves: What are we going to do differently to combat these forces and ensure that our young people receive a strong and lasting foundation in faith?
In the school and religious education, we have made efforts to revise our curriculum. We have moved to a new textbook with a far more substantial doctrinal content. It seems to be the case that the more a young person is informed about the faith, seeing that it is a coherent and meaningful explanation of the world, when they come to question it in adolescence, they are less quick to cast it off as a childhood fairytale. We have also encouraged more parental involvement, knowing that the first teachers of the faith are parents, and it is when the faith is lived out vibrantly at home that children keep that faith.
Another effort we are making is a move toward a new youth ministry program: Life Teen. While youth ministry is not the primary factor in whether a young person keeps the faith, it can be a valuable resource for reinforcing the faith in a comfortable and relational environment. Life Teen in particular focuses on that idea of relational ministry. The structure of the program is that a “Core Team” is put together with volunteers of all ages, backgrounds, and interests. This Core Team works with the young people, and the hope is that each young person finds a Core member who they feel comfortable with, and that Core member gets to know that young person and takes an interest in him or her. It’s in that relationship that the Core Team member can share his or her faith, and help encourage the young person as they seek to grow in their own.
This relationship then ultimately leads to a deeper connection with our faith in those most essential elements: prayer, the Eucharist, confession, devotion to the Blessed Mother. It takes a very fundamental approach, recognizing that when those pieces are present, the faith is strong.
Youth ministry, though, is a responsibility for all of us in the parish – “It takes a village to raise a child.” Michelle, our new youth minister, made an announcement at most of the Masses last week asking for volunteers. You will find in the bulletin a form that I ask you to please take a look at. You’ll see that we need volunteers of all sorts, from Core Team members who can come each week, to people who can set up or clean up, to donors, to people who are willing to pray for the youth and the ministry. As people of faith, we know that the prayer behind our work is just as important as the work itself, because it is always by God’s grace that good comes about. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth” (1 Cor 6).
I ask you then to prayerfully take a look at the form and see at what level you might be able to participate. Also, please consider if there is someone you know who would be a good fit, especially for the Core Team, where we need strong role models in the faith. Finally, I ask you to please join us on Thursday, November 21st, at 7:30PM in the Church for an informational meeting for youth, parents, volunteers, and all who would like to know more.
Let’s come together and help share that great gift of faith which has been such a blessing for us all!
Yours in Christ,