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Never too young to care

My niece, Amy, recently celebrated her 4th  birthday. My sister-in-law, Michelle, asked her what she had planned for the year ahead. Amy told her mom that during her fourth year of life she wanted to learn how to swim without wearing her life-vest, be able to dive into a pool, know how to roller skate and ice skate, and learn how to read and do math. Other than that, Amy doesn’t have a thing planned for the year ahead! I have no doubt that Amy, with the help of her mom and dad, will achieve most, if not all, of her goals.

Recently, the young people in our parish youth group met to make plans for the year ahead. Sue Parker, our parish youth minister, shared with me that the kids had made an interesting request as part of their planning. I wondered what it might be – more social activities for the group, or a parish dance? Perhaps they were thinking about setting up a ping-pong tournament.  It turns out I was wrong on all counts. Along with the rest of the parish, the kids had learned about the new compassion ministry that has been formed in our parish to help serve people who are grieving as the result of any sort of loss. Knowing that their classmates experience grief and losses of all sorts, the members of our youth group felt that being trained in offering a compassionate response in ways appropriate to their ages and the situations they encounter will help them to be better friends and followers of Jesus. It’s hard for me to argue with that, so I am sure that before the year is through, a number of young people in our parish will be trained to offer compassionate support to their friends.

Zach, Ellen and Craig who are featured as part of this year’s teen issue of FAITH are taking part in some amazing work through their parish youth program. They are doing something that few adults might ever find the courage to do – visiting and offering day-long retreats at Boysville, a correctional facility located in the southern part of our diocese. The goal of their work is to help the young people at Boysville to learn how to form healthy, trusting relationships.

The young people of our parishes are capable of some pretty amazing things. Sometimes, we adults run the risk of stereotyping them, thinking that all they’re interested in is school, sports and social activities. Instead, they can have a pretty clear sense of how they are called to be about their Father’s business, responding to God’s grace and fostering important and life-giving skills and talents. In the process of learning what they are truly about, they teach the rest of us about who God calls each of us to become. And so, our journey in FAITH continues.