I recently spent a day in Cartagena, Columbia, and visited the church where St. Peter Claver is buried. In the square next to the church is a beautiful sculpture of Peter with one of the enslaved persons to whom he ministered. It was so moving to see the tender gaze of Peter on a young man in obvious pain. It made me want to reach out to those who suffer from oppression and the denial of their human dignity. I wanted to take their pain away. Thank you, St. Peter Claver!
Did you know there is a World Youth Day message and theme from the Holy Father every year - though there may not be an international gathering? Recently the Pope Francis chose the first of the beatitudes as the themes for the upcoming World Youth Days celebrations.
It is undeniable that this presidential election is different from any other recent elections. Many reasons are contributing to this difference such as the possibility of electing the first female president and the prospect of electing not a politician but a celebrity real estate tycoon. No matter who wins the election, he or she will be entering the office during a time or great unrest in our country and around the world. Perhaps this is why so many cannot decide who to vote for come November. There are groundbreaking numbers of people who still consider themselves as undecided voters including a large majority of young people known as the millennial generation.
The Sacrament of Confirmation plays an important role in the faith formation of many adolescents throughout the Catholic Church. It's a pivotal moment in a teenager's faith journey that provides a unique encounter with Jesus and the Church. How do you prepare young people for this important sacrament?
My wife and I are parents of three young adults. Each of our daughters loves their Catholic faith but their journeys were unique. One thing in common was that all of them engaged in summer mission experiences with our parish through Young Neighbors in Action. Looking back, it feels like their mission experience helped faith stick in their lives and helped them grow a faith that they could take with them into their college and young adult lives.
There are times when I think I am too old to work with adolescents. My memory fails me. My back hurts and my knees creak. I don’t know how to Snapchat, and I wouldn’t know 5 Seconds of Summer from...five seconds of summer! How can someone my age relate to today’s generation of teens?
While I was considering a topic for this blog post I was having a conversation with a youth minister. I mentioned that it was Friday and that I was excited about the upcoming weekend. His response was “It’s all the same to me since I work every day.” He even went on to say that “his office was his second home and he often just stayed the night there.” While I totally understand that ministry is important work, his response made me feel sad and I can’t help but think that it makes God feel sad too. After all, even Jesus took time away from “work” to rest. How can we be who our young people need us to be if do not make time to care for ourselves? This is the time of year when many parish youth ministries are gearing up for a new school year. Often times this means scheduling more activities, parent meetings, finding volunteers, and frankly more stress. How will you manage the stresses in your life? How will you model a healthy lifestyle for the young people you minister with?
Over 31 years ago, in April 1985, I was part of a group of fifteen youth ministers from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who traveled to Rome for the first World Youth Day convened by Saint John Paul II. There were not very many present from the United States; I would estimate there were less than 300. We had an amazing adventure staying at a convent, walking into Rome each day or taking the bus. I discovered pizza rustica, with toppings that included a sliced hard-boiled egg and pancetta. More importantly, I discovered the youth center that the Pope created for the event. It was created from space behind the columns of the plaza in front of St. Peter’s Cathedral. It had a simple, beautiful chapel with an altar personally donated by the Holy Father and a replica of the Cross of San Damiano, from the Chapel where St. Francis of Assisi was told to “rebuild my Church.” The words of Evangeli Nuntiandi were written by hand on newsprint in five languages and posted throughout the room next to the chapel. I experienced this document for the first time by reading it and talking with other pilgrims. I will never forget reading the words of Pope Paul VI that describe Evangelization:
Since I was a child, I've always enjoyed watching the night sky. I can vividly remember watching my first meteor shower, my first falling star, and lunar eclipse. These were wonderful and almost magical experiences that opened me to something much greater and grander than anything else I'd know.
Each June, the Center for Ministry Development begins a new season of mission trips and youth leadership trainings. This past week, Young Neighbors in Action, Just5Days, and YouthLeader all opened across the country. This is an exciting time because it serves as a reminder for us as an organization to remember why we do what we do. Summer is an opportunity for the CMD ministry staff to switch gears from working with adults to spending time laughing, playing, praying, and serving with young people.