It was my first week at my first full-time parish / school youth ministry job. I was just settling into my office, clearing out some of the previous YM's stuff, changing the desktop background - you know... the important stuff. I would be lying if I said I was not overwhelmed. I was tasked with serving 2 parishes and 4 schools in 2 communities. However, my new YM zeal and excitement was an easy antidote to my beginner anxiety. Suddenly the secretary paged me and told me I had a call on line 2. I thought it was weird that someone would be calling me already, but I took the call.
"Hi Lance! My name is Louisa and I am a youth minister in Calgary. I just wanted to call and welcome you to the mission!" Oh My Gosh. This is exactly what I needed. She then said something that I didn't think was English. "I am a member of W.C.A.C.Y.M. [wik-ak-uhm]. It stands for the Western Canadian Association of Catholic Youth Ministers. It is a group of youth ministers, teachers, volunteers, and diocesan directors across Western Canada. We meet regularly, support one another, and they provide Professional Development for YMs".
Did I just win the lottery?! I instantly changed from feeling like a segregated youth minister out in the middle of nowhere, to feeling supported and a part of a big community. She invited me to their annual gathering at Star of the North Retreat Center in St. Albert, Alberta the following January. Given my extreme extroversion, I signed up immediately!
The gathering was an awesome peek into what WCACYM truly is. The weekend offered a retreat element, some professional development, as well as a very surprising professional element. They had a very professional meeting as well following Robert's Rules and everything. I was very impressed. This was a group of Youth Ministers and this meeting was something you'd see in a fancy board room somewhere.
This weekend instilled a desire in me to get involved with this organization and was the starting point for me discovering everything WCACYM represents.
One of the things that impressed me the most about WCACYM is its professionalism. Not only were the meetings very professional, as I mentioned above, they strive as an organization to change the image of Youth Ministry to a professional. There was always an underlying purpose of changing the way the Church views Youth Ministry. From encouraging Youth Ministers to dress professionally, encouraging adopting best practices and following guidelines, providing opportunities for Professional Development, offering a certificate program, and advocating for fair and just salaries for Youth Ministers, professionalism was always at the top of the list. As we all know, Youth Ministry is not about pop & chips or only getting butts in the seats. It is about leading youth to encounter Christ. WCACYM wants Youth Ministers to be viewed as professionals and it encourages Youth Ministers to act as such. This was very impressive.
Every WCACYM event I have been to is centered in Christ and provides spiritual formation. Many of the Youth Ministers I have met have had some sort of formation from either the seminary or being a part of a travelling or campus retreat team. Unfortunately, I had not had any of these experiences and WCACYM provided me with some. Through the certificate program which I will talk about later, I was able to figure out my personality type and what Catholic spirituality my personality gravitates towards. I found out I prefer a 50/50 mix of Franciscan and Augustinian spiritualities. I was BLESSED with being exposed to the beautiful traditions of the Byzantine Rite, and had my Catholic world-view expanded by experiencing many different ways to pray including The Way of the Cross, Praise & Worship, Eucharistic Adoration, Lectio Divina, Mass and Divine Liturgy, Prayer Ministry, and so much more. Being able to spend time in prayer and spiritual formation sessions lead and attended by lay people, priests, sisters, monks, and bishops, really communicated the universality of the Church. In addition to all this, WCACYM also offers a Fall Retreat for Youth Ministers so they can start their years off right.
Every summer, WCACYM offers courses to go towards the 3 year Canadian Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies (C.C.Y.M.S.). The certificate consists of 8 courses specially designed for those in ministry with youth in the parish, school, or community settings. It equips leaders with practical tools and techniques needed for creative and comprehensive youth ministry. The eight courses include Principles of Youth Ministry, Practices of Youth Ministry, Foundations of Ministry Leadership, Skills for Christian Leadership, Prayer and Worship, Pastoral Care, Justice & Service, and Evangelization & Catechesis. All of the facilitators are very qualified and are either clergy or lay people holding various Masters degrees in either Divinity or Theology. I pursued the certificate and achieved it! I was even chosen as the "valedictorian"! These were some of the most blessed times of my life.
Over the years, other locations and diocese have offered similar programming to their own YMs online or through smaller local gatherings, but what makes this program so special is the networking and collaboration opportunities.
Along with the Certificate Program, WCACYM also offers Professional Development opportunities for Youth Ministers. Over the years, facilitators from across Canada and the USA have been brought in to facilitate Professional Development for Catholic Youth Ministers. There are opportunities for this at least two times a year and I have taken full advantage of it. These opportunities have enriched the ministries I have served and have helped form the person I am today.
Being a member of WCACYM has not only taught me the importance of collaboration, but it has given me a group of people to collaborate with. Whether it is during the Summer Seminars collaborating on a year plan, individual lesson plan, event plan, or something outside of Summer Seminar like a video or blog post, WCACYM has been an incredible resource for me as a Youth Minister and now future educator. WCACYM also facilitates collaboration and sharing of resources, ideas, discussion of hot topics, and so much more. I have collaborated on ministry projects and ideas, YouTube videos, blog posts, and other personal projects with the people I have met in WCACYM. Above all, this organization has instilled in me the importance of collaboration.
The way WCACYM had the biggest impact on me was the community. There were so many times where I was able to talk to another Youth Minister about a challenge I was facing and was met with "I get it" or "I have been there" - "Here's what I did". When Youth Ministers come together, they are able to talk about the challenges they all face, not in a complaining or gossipy way, but with a sense of support and collegiality. Issues that every Youth Minister faces like how to address your parish council, how to approach things with my pastor, how to advocate for yourself, how to keep the secretary and the caretakers happy! ;). The WCACYM events, especially the Summer Seminar, gives Youth Ministers an opportunity to spend time with people in the trenches doing the same things they are, in other parts of the country. The support is amazing. As Thomas Merton puts it, no man is an island. No Youth Minister should be either.
That first phone call I mentioned at the beginning of this article was in 2009. That first event I went to was January 2010. It is now August 12, 2016 and I still talk to a lot of the people I met there. I owe some of my best friends to WCACYM! If you ever get a chance to go to a WCACYM event or a Summer Seminar for the certificate. Please take it! If money is an issue, there is a Scholarship program available. There are also other organizations (KofC, CWL, Parish, Diocese, etc) that are more than willing to support your pursuit of these great things.
I owe many things to the people I met in WCACYM. I am the man I am today because of my time I spent with this wonderful group. Now that I am entering into my Education career, I am hoping to get back involved with WCACYM as their PD is very valuable to educators as well.
WCACYM will always hold a special place in my heart.
Please consider getting involved. You'll be glad you did!
My name is Lance Rosen and #iamwcacym.
As the starting point for youth ministry since 1997, Renewing the Vision (RTV) was studied by many youth ministers as a part of their training & formation. It only makes sense, then, that the recent document entitled You Give them Something to Eat (YGSE) written by Canadian youth ministers and published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops would have similar core elements. The three goals and eight elements for youth ministry are all present in this document, but have been joined by a one more goal and one more element for youth ministry in a twenty first century Canadian context.
The first part of this summary on YGSE looked at the context in which we do youth ministry; this second part will look primarily at the four goals and nine elements as they are presented in YGSE.
Goals for Effective Youth Ministry
Renewing the Vision spoke of three goals for youth ministry; empowering young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ; drawing young people into the life, mission, and work of the Catholic community, and to foster the total personal and spiritual growth of each young person. YGSE has built upon these three goals but has taken them a step further.
Goal #1: Effective youth ministry calls the Catholic faith community to continually renew its affective and effective option for young people.
While the other three goals are either adapted or taken directly from RTV, this one is brand new, and prefaces the others. The authors of YGSE are asking the Church in Canada to “renew its option for young people” (YGSE, 12) – in other words, to do youth ministry on purpose – embracing the fact that those who do ministry may be changed as much as the young people they will serve.
Goal #2: Effective youth ministry fosters the total personal and spiritual growth of each young person.
Those who engage in youth take a vested interest in the well-being of young people. This interest is certainly spiritual – showing care for the souls of young people – but it also involves their minds, intellects, physical development, moral development, emotional health, andmental health. YGSE states that “Well-balanced youth ministry promotes and actively works to provide for the growth of healthy, competent, caring, and faith-filled Catholic Christian young people” (YGSE, 13) in hopes that these will grow into adulthood with the same qualities.
Goal #3: Effective youth ministry youth ministry invites and empowers young people to live as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ in our world today.
The explanation of this third goal is perhaps the most beautiful part of the document: “Youth ministry sets out consciously to facilitate moments of encounter between young people and the God who loves them, Jesus Christ who redeems them, and the Spirit who sustains them” (YGSE, 14). Young people are not simply consumers to be served, but they too have a part to play in the mission of the Church. Once young people have had these moments of encounter, the task of youth ministry is to help them understand what it means to be a disciple sent on a mission – exploring their gifts and weaknesses, and ultimately discovering their God-given vocation.
Goal #4: Effective youth ministry draws young people to participate responsibly in the life, mission, and work of the Catholic faith community.
The Christian call begins with Baptism and is renewed at every Sunday Mass – so each young person has a share in the Church’s mission to bring the Gospel to the world. In youth ministry, this is perhaps best seen in the context of an apprenticeship, where youth are “drawn ever more deeply into the life, prayer, service, and ways of the Catholic Christian community” (YGSE, 15). Just as experienced tradesperson takes on an apprentice with the intention of showing, sharing, and ultimately entrusting the work to his or her apprentice, those who minister in the Church are invited to do the same. In this way young Catholics are invited to “explore and try out possibilities for how they might use their God-given gifts and talents, skills and abilities” (YGSE, 16) – first, under the guidance of a mentor, and ultimately as equal coworkers in the vineyard of the Lord.
Elements of a Vision for Youth Ministry
Under the direction of RTV, comprehensive youth ministry has often tried to build itself on eight elements (or ministries):
While each one of these could receive an article-length explanation, what is notable is that in YGSE, they have been joined by a ninth element of youth ministry: intentional relationships. YGSE states that “most people will encounter Jesus Christ in and through his people” (YGSE, 20) – something that has been the case from the very beginning. Jesus called His followers by name, and you might argue that the twelve who were most profoundly impacted by His ministry because they had the opportunity to live in intentional relationship with Him. In the words of Clayton Imoo (director of youth ministry for the Archdiocese of Vancouver) “youth won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
This section ends with a call to action: “At this moment in our history, there is a great need for a refocusing, a recommitment, a revitalization, and a renewal of the efforts of the Church in Canada for ministry with, by, for, and among young people” (YGSE, 30). This call is followed by twelve action points spread out over eight pages which could easily serve as an introduction to youth ministry for the parish who has never done this before or as an evaluation tool for the parish who want to strengthen their ministry.
The last section of the document is a series of appendices, practical ingredients that a parish might use in establishing a vision for youth ministry, or assisting those who accept the call to work in this field. These appendices include themes that can be found in a well-balanced vision of youth ministry, a sample vision for youth ministry, sample job descriptions for the parish and diocese, and other evaluation tools for youth ministry.
Having spent the last eighteen years of my life serving in youth ministry, I am pleased that the staff from CCYMS took the time to put this document together. In the introduction they state that YGSE “offers assistance for a future in which each parish, arch/diocese, and community of faith has a vibrant outreach to and with young people” (vi). Given the many hungers of young people today, may we as a Church bring our loaves and fish to Christ so that together, we can all give them something to eat.
Mike Landry is a father, husband, geek, speaker, musician, and most days, he serves as Chaplain to Evergreen Catholic Schools west of Edmonton. Read more of his writing at www.thirdplaceproject.com.
If you’ve been involved in Catholic youth ministry for any length of time, you’ve likely heard of the USCCB document Renewing the Vision (RTV) which, for nearly twenty years, has laid out goals and strategies for ‘comprehensive’ youth ministry across North America. This document has been particularly helpful since some of us start in youth ministry with very little formal training and job description that can be as simple as ‘do something for young people.’ This is why youth ministry groups like Canadian Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies, LIFE TEEN (where I received my certificate), and others all made RTV foundational to their training programs.
RTV was first published in 1997 – as a follow up to a similar document written two decades earlier – and was meant to respond to some of the new challenges faced by young people in the late nineties. Recently, a group of Canadian youth ministers published a new document through the Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops. You Give them Something to Eat (YGSE) builds upon the foundation of RTV while also updating the goals and elements of youth ministry to the challenges faced by Canadian youth aged 10-19 today. It was written by a group of faculty from the Canadian Certificate program mentioned above to offer "a vision for ministry to, with, and by maturing missionary disciples" (YGSE, vi). While at seventy pages it may seem like a substantial read for a busy youth minister/coordinator, it's laid out like a textbook: a significant portion is made up of reflection questions & blank space for journalling.
The title, You Give them Something to Eat, was taken from Luke 9:12-17, where Jesus famously feeds five thousand people. After a day of teaching, the twelve apostles told Jesus that the crowd needed to be dismissed to find food, and Jesus told them to “give them something to eat” (Luke 9:13). From there meager offering – five loaves and two fish, Jesus fed the crowd with a full basket of leftovers for each of the twelve. In asking them to provide for the needs of the crowd, Jesus invited his disciples “to become his partners in ministry, feeding and attending to the needs of the many people who had gathered” (YGSE, v). There is no question that today, we stand facing a multitude of hungry young people, and that both the Church and those who answer the call to serve in youth ministry – to become the Lord’s partners - have something to offer them.
Practically speaking, YGSE consists of three main parts: first, six contexts (or settings) where youth ministry takes place today; second, four goals that should be kept in mind to build an effective youth ministry; and third, nine elements we need to be mindful of to build an effective youth ministry. In the first of two articles on this document, we’ll look at that first part – six settings or contexts where youth ministry takes place.
Today’s youth face many challenges. These include a changing sense of hope for the future; frustration when they can’t meet quickly reach the standard of living their parents achieved after years of labor; issues with mental health, sexuality, and sexual identity; and a desire to find life-giving role models and authentic witnesses while they apprentice in the Christian life. YGSE writes that:
“In adolescence, it can seem as if everything is changing within and around the young person. Life can begin to seem very complicated: there are choices to be made, confusion can replace certainty, loneliness and alienation can begin to creep in, and young people begin to test their values as they seek a way and a place to belong.” (YGSE, 2)
It is in response to these challenges that ministry begins in and among young people. Wherever they may be, the Church is invited to go to them in a missionary key and make them apprentices in the Christian life.
Ministry to youth takes place in other settings as well. The Church recognizes the importance of the family as a domestic Church and the parents as primary educators of their children. But, like youth, families in the twenty-first century also face many challenges: busyness, poverty, violence, addictions – not to mention that even the best of parents can struggle to pass on their faith. All of these situations conspire to leave young people without a strong foundation of faith in the home, and youth ministry needs to be sensitive to these complex realities.
Schools are a uniquely privileged place for youth ministry as well. In particular, Catholic schools “partner with parents and parishes to become full and active missionary disciples of Jesus Christ” (YGSE, 6). They do so by religious education classes, spiritual formation, pastoral care, service projects, retreats, prayer experiences, peer ministry, and vocational discernment. This grows on into university years, where campus ministry programs help engage the enthusiasm of young adults to serve others and share their faith.
The Parish community is another place that youth ministry takes place. Our parishes ought to be youth-friendly, a space where young people are accepted, welcomed, challenged to grow in their faith, and invited to serve alongside the adults in the community. YGSE writes that “young people want Church teaching presented in a way that is applicable to their lives” along with “depth of content, and opportunities to learn, explore, discuss, live, and take on for themselves the tenets of Catholic faith” (7).
A unique context for ministry today is social media and technology. Never before in human history have young people had the sort of access they do to information, technology, and one another as they do today. This brings with it many benefits such as immediate access to information, and many challenges including cyber bullying and unlimited access to pornography. YGSE points out that “despite the connective potential and power of social media and other technologies, many young people seem to be more socially alienated and lonely than ever before” (8). Those who engage in youth ministry need to walk with young people as they navigate these technologies – and assist them in bringing the Gospel into these new mission fields.
Finally, youth ministry takes place in the wider community of twenty-first century society. This community has grown skeptical of both the message of our faith and the messenger. While the reasons for this skepticism are varied – concerns with the way the Church has dealt with scandal to problem of evil in the world today – the response has not changed. The Church has always asked to “proclaim the Good News with authenticity, fidelity, joy, and relevance” (YGSE, 10) – proclaiming the same Jesus Christ the apostles first shared twenty centuries ago.
YGSE concludes this section by summarizing what it means to answer Jesus’ command to ‘give them something to eat’ – by engaging a twofold task (10):
Coming in You Give them Something to Eat part 2: The Goals & Elements of Youth Ministry.
Mike Landry is a father, husband, geek, speaker, musician, and most days, he serves as Chaplain to Evergreen Catholic Schools west of Edmonton. Read more of his writing at www.thirdplaceproject.com.
The third of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talks about the need to put “first things first.” Looking back over my adult life – as a Christian, husband, father, and youth minister – I’d say that this has been one of my greatest areas of struggle. I think I’ve spent more than my fair share of time working on or worrying about the wrong things.
I’ve found it particularly easy to get sidetracked in my professional life. In ten years of parish youth ministry, I found myself as the youngest person on a parish staff – and in most cases, the one with the most care and concern for technology. As a result, I put hours of work into my parishes websites, sound systems, and computer workstations... and I was glad to do it (in fact I usually asked for these responsibilities!) The only problem was that every hour I put into these areas was an hour I wasn’t spending with young people, preparing upcoming activities, or generally building up the whole structure of our youth ministry. While part of working on a small staff means going above and beyond your job description, the fact remains that working in youth ministry (or for the Church in general) means that there is never enough time to get everything done.
But looking back, misspent time is not the worst way I worried about the wrong things.
Luke’s Gospel tells us of an occasion that John came across an exorcist who was not one of Jesus’ twelve, but who was casting out demons – doing what they had been called to do. Believing that this man was infringing on the disciples’ exclusive work, John tried to stop him. Jesus’ reply is succinct and to the point: "Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you" (John 9:50). I imagine this was a bit of a wake-up call for John, helping him look beyond himself to see not competitors in the work of evangelization, but potential allies. I don’t believe he had bad intentions, just that he got a bit sidetracked and self-centered.
I can think of far too many moments that I was just like John. Moments where I let my ambition or pride get in the way of the big picture of ministry (helping grow disciples). One of the most notable of these began with the noblest of intentions. I saw that some of my young people needed something that would challenge their faith more deeply than our regular gatherings were doing, so a group of us established a citywide evening of praise and worship/adoration. As a youth ministry event, it was incredibly successful: beyond consistent and growing attendance we had people discerning vocations to the priesthood and religious life, leaving for missionary years with NET Ministries, and the event itself spawned off several similar events in neighboring parishes.
It’s this last “success” that caused me all the trouble. I regarded these as duplicate events as threats to my event. I got defensive of the name and format, and resisted promoting the “competing” events at my own... after all, this had been my idea, it had grown because of my work, and it was supposed to be the lasting legacy of my ministry. And while my original motivation in starting these evenings had been good, as time wore on (at least in my own heart) parts of it had become more and more about me. Like John, I had started to believe that this was my exclusive work – and, like John, I needed a wake-up call to be snapped out of it.
It was in confession that I heard some haunting words that are most applicable here: would it not be a tragedy would it be if young people came to me looking for Christ and found (instead) only me? These words come to mind often when I struggle with prayer, but also when I’ve gotten sidetracked, allowing things to become too much about me, and not enough about Him. If Stephen Covey’s third habit of putting first things first is important for Christians, it’s doubly important for those of us engaged in ministry. I see ministry at its core as a love story. The first and greatest commandment is that we are to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength... and the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves (cf. Mark 12-30-31). But the beauty of it all is that God loved us first (1 John 4:19).
I’d be lying if I said I’m perfect at this today – it’s a regular item on my examination of conscience. I know that when I’m doing ministry right, it is this love story that drives me. I am loved by God, and to return that love is to share it with anyone who will listen. But like John, I’m easily distracted – not only by good things, like trying to help anywhere that I can, but also –and much more dangerously – but by a self-centered concern that makes me sweat far too much of the small stuff.
- Mike Landry
(Mike Landry is the Chaplain for Evergreen Catholic Schools west of Edmonton. Visit his site at www.thirdplaceproject.com.)
I was in a religion class when a student asked me the following:
"Can you prove, with actual evidence, that God is even real?"
Taking inspiration from St. Thomas Aquinas’ five proofs for God’s existence, my reply centered on the fact that it is possible to see that God is the uncaused cause of all around us, that it takes more faith to believe that God doesn't exist (and we're here by happy coincidence), and that everything we regard as true, good, or beautiful is only so because it somehow reflects the truth, beauty, and goodness of God to us.
While the above is an oversimplified answer – and there are no shortage of good, rational proofs for God's existence - a student who asks a question as it was written above, seeking actual evidence, isn't simply looking for a rational or philosophical argument: he wants to see God. This student is no different than Thomas, Jesus' apostle who missed the Lord's first resurrected appearance to them, and had a hard time believing any of it:
"Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." -John 20:25
It's Thomas' last statement that is probably most relevant here: there are many who seem to choose not to believe, in large part because they are not satisfied with the above evidence that has been offered to them by me, their teacher, our priests, or anyone else.
Anyone who is a regular reader of my blog, or someone who has seen or heard me speak has almost certainly heard me talk about my wife and kids. Chances are less likely, however, that most have ever met them. In the class I was in, only one of 25 students have ever seen my wife (across the Church), and a handful more had seen my kids. I posed the question to them, setting aside the one who had seen her: how many of you believe that my wife exists? Everyone raised their hands. Why? How do you know that I haven't photoshopped myself into wedding pictures, or hired someone to get her to pretend to be my wife? The usual answer I get here is "because you talk about her and your kids, and ultimately, and because we trust you."
One student offered a further answer: "because of the way you talk about her." It was a tremendous statement: the way I speak about her is, at least for this student, an unmistakable proof for her existence.
For the many Thomas' of our world - those who want proof or they will not believe – it’s possible that believing in God is difficult not only because of their doubts and resistances - but because of the way we who profess to believe in Him talk about God? I can speak with great devotion about my wife because of how much I try to devote myself to her, how I put time into my relationship with her whether I'm happy, sad, rested, tired, well, sick, relaxed, overwhelmed, or busy, because she is always before me. I wear a ring on my finger as a reminder of her love and fidelity - and my care for her keeps her ever in my mind and on my heart.
Can I say the same about God? (Can you?)
When people talk about changing the Church to try and re-connect young people with her, it's usually based on some sort of liturgical reform (how we celebrate the Mass) or a change in Church teaching (to catch up to with modern times). I think that the crisis we face as Catholics - really, that all Christians face has nothing to do with either of these issues. The crisis is that we Christians don't talk about Christ in a way that makes people recognize we know Him. And perhaps this is because we don't talk about Him enough... but perhaps it's because we don't know Him well enough. We lack devotion - putting time into this relationship whether we are happy, sad, rested, tired, well, sick, relaxed, overwhelmed, or busy, keeping Him ever before us.
Without discounting the importance of understanding our faith and being able to give well thought out answers to questions about our faith, what may be most needed is that we a) fall in love with Jesus and b) make sure we speak of Him by our life and actions. In this way, students like those I saw on Friday afternoon and any other "Thomas'" will be able to know, without a doubt, that God is real.
Our life in words and actions may be the first - or only - Gospel someone will read. Draw near to Him that it might be an authentic one.
Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything. Whoever has God lacks nothing. God alone suffices.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people. -St. Teresa of Avila
I have been involved in Youth Ministry in one way or another since 2006. My current journey to becoming a teacher has shown me the importance of reflection. As I reflect on my Youth Ministry experiences and the wonderful people I have met over the years, one issue seems to always come to the front of my mind, and I feel the need to talk about it and speak to youth about it as well. This issue is Living in the Shadows.
This issue doesn't appear where you may think. It happens within those amazingly faithful, well-put-together Catholic families. You see them in Mass all the time. I have a lot of respect and admiration for them. For the most part, they are the token model of what I would like my family to be some day. They usually have more than four kids - two or more have graduated. Usually one or two of the kids has gone off and done some sort of 'Catholic God Stuff' - whether it be joining a ministry like CCO, FOCUS, or NET, heading to bible school, or entering the seminary. These kids are usually celebrated by the Catholic community for their openness to God's will in their lives, and their service of the Church (as they should be). They are giving up a year or more of their lives to discern God's will and serve His people. This is very noble and admirable.
My question is: What about the other kids?
Living in the Shadows
What about the other kids? What about the younger children? The siblings? Yes, they have amazing role models to look up to and aspire to be like, but I think that more times than not they feel like they are living in the shadows of their super holy brothers and sisters, and feel like if they don't follow the same path as them, they will be looked at as failures.
Now, I know for a fact that in most cases, this would never happen on purpose. No parents that I know would ever feel that way about their kids... ever!
The problem is, the kids can still feel this way themselves. And some of them do.
Every time I have spoken to youth about this topic, the younger children of these amazing families seem to connect with it. They can relate. One talk touched on how they shouldn't be so hard on themselves because God loves them no matter what. The conference I was speaking at had a lot of youth from very strong Catholic families in attendance, and as I was up there, I felt moved to touch on this topic. I mentioned that for those in attendance who have brothers and sisters who have gone before them and done cool stuff for God like join a ministry, take the pressure off yourself to live up to that and figure out what God wants for YOU. Some youth came up to me after the talk and thanked me. One young man in particular said, "before your talk, I hated myself". That hit me like a ton of bricks. I saw many students shake their heads in agreement with me. They can relate to this stuff.
What can we do?
Sometimes I think we forget about these children and assume they're fine because they come from stable, well-established, faithful homes. But the truth is, they are searching for purpose, meaning, and identity just a much as the rest of them. Sometimes they can be easily forgotten.
We need to encourage them and let them know that they don't have to follow the same path as their brother or sister who seem to have it all together.
We need to tell them that there are so many ways to holiness - That they don't need to do the same thing as their super holy brother or sister - That they can be holy in their own special way... their own quiet way.
We need to tell them that they have a purpose.
We need to encourage them in the fact that God has an amazing and unique plan set aside for them, and empower them to find it, own it, and embrace it.
We need to remember those youth Living in the Shadows of their family members and invite them out into the light of their own legacy, their own story, their own journey with Christ, and their own purpose.
We need to.
- Lance Rosen