| By Father Dwight Ezop

What’s really in the news – teens who give back

Over the last few weeks, we have been deluged by a variety of stories ranging from the death of a popular music star, confirmation hearings for a new Supreme Court justice, the continuing debate about efforts to reform our nation’s health-care system and much more. With so many stories clamoring for our attention, it would be understandable if most people missed the story about the nationwide increase in volunteerism that has been taking place during the past year.

Despite the fact that our economic struggles continue, and those struggles have resulted in the first downturn in monetary charity since 1987, the number of people volunteering their time to help others grew steadily last year. Recent statistics from the federal government show that the overall number of volunteers increased by 2 percent between 2007 and 2008. Among young adults aged 16 to 24 years, the number of volunteers grew by 5.7 percent during the same period. According to the same report, currently 26 percent of Americans donate their time.

Even as the economy continues to sag, the commitment to volunteerism on the part of over a quarter of our nation’s population grows. As the recent study shows, young people are leading the way in this surge. I hope that all those young people are like the ones we are featuring in this year’s annual teen issue. From a young man who is serving as a junior volunteer firefighter to young woman who is advocating for those like herself with a very rare medical condition, the young people featured in this issue have a deep commitment to their parish communities and the larger civic communities in which they exist. Being teenagers, they don’t have significant financial resources to draw upon. What they clearly have are loving hearts, lots of energy and a passion for wanting to make a difference motivated by their faith.

As our parish communities move into the busy times of the year ahead, perhaps all of us, no matter our age, can learn from our young people. Our young people are showing us how to make use of the valuable resource of our time to assist our brothers and sister in Christ. Perhaps they are reminding us that there are new ways and diverse opportunities for all of us to put the resources of our time and energy to good use in building up the Kingdom of God. And so our journey in FAITH continues.