Totally Catholic Youth Ministers Lounge

Are you in youth ministry and you've had it with crazed parents? Rollin' your eyes at the pastoral council? Tired of administration work? Love youth? Love the Church? Appalled at parish politics? Looking for some good games? For a creative ways to teach a lesson for Religious Ed? Just need a place to veg out and say "phew! Someone outside of the parish to talk to!"? Grab y'r Starbucks, turn the computer away from the staff's eyes, grab a seat on a donated dusty couch and let it all go.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Walking The Tightrope

I don't know if anyone else struggles with this, but in parish work I find an internal battle going on in my head and I don't know if I always end up doing the right thing.

Ours is a fairly typical parish. We have your average Joe Catholic who is quasi-cafeteria, actually thinks U.S. Catholic is a good read and basically observes all of the good Catholic laws and does so believing that they are doing pretty good. We have the so-so Catholic who got offended by someone and isn't sure they want to go, but shows up, maybe out of guilt. We have a group of definately orthodox families who go to daily Mass, gather every week for a prayer meeting, get exasperated with the pastor and is raising up fantastic kids. We tend to have more cash, an expanding Religious Education program and sometimes the songs are excellent, and sometimes they aren't.

My struggle is that I often want to just outright proclaim the joys of living an authentic and orthodox (sorry to throw that word around so much) Catholic life. I want the kids to get everything that they can, to soak up all the goodness that God has for us-but sometimes I find I back away in hopes of gaining the trust of a staff member or volunteer or parent.

Then I wonder-do I lack courage? Am I really being wise to back off? Am I choosing the right battles to die for? Do I fear losing kids if I remake the Confirmation retreat? Do I wait and patiently lay the foundation, brick by brick til a pretty strong road is built?

I don't always know. I look at what some others are doing-huge LifeTeen programs, Life In The Spirit seminars for their Confirmation retreats-they come into the parish and just change up everything and make it great-while I use what is here and try to enrich what appears to be good already with even more good Catholic formation.

But am I lacking in courage? Am I being wise? I'm not often sure.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely understand your frustration and your self-questioning. The thing to remember is that Life Teen and other programs don't just spring up overnight. There has to be a great deal of 'tilling the soil' beforehand.

The tightrope analogy is an apt one. I come from a fairly 'liberal' parish, and I have had to choose my battles. The key thing is to always take it to prayer and to try and deal with those who have reservations with openness and charity.

One of the things I hear from teens is that they want to know what makes catholicism distinctive and special from the faith of their friends. I built in a segment on What is the Church for Confirmation that highlighted the fact that the Church was founded by Christ and that it contains the fullness of the Revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

The DRE reviewed the material and asked me why I would include it in the program. She also recommended that I downplay that aspect of the material. I thanked her for her input, but I kept the material in. The teens now have a stronger sense of the community to which they have been called.

On the other hand, I belong to a council whose role is to help the parish renew its committment and vision of stewardship. We were invited to speak during the masses over the course of several weeks. As our reflection would have taken the place of the homily, I originally said that I wouldn't take part in that activity--even though my parish regularly has laypeople preach in place of the homily.

However, on the youth ministry front, we had just worked long and hard to implement the liturgical changes that were asked of the LifeTeen program (a request that was not popular at our parish). If we had informed the staff and the pastor that we would not speak during the homily but preferred to speak in addition to the homily for a few minutes after communion, we probably would have lost 'credibility' with the staff, who would write us off as ultra-conservative, thereby making it more difficult to move forward with our other initiatives. We decided to offer our reflection, and then work toward teaching the community about the complementary (but different) role of the lay and ordained offices in the Church's life.

We have to meet people where they are and offer them the truth--which is what Christ did, after all. That doesn't mean changing the truth to fit others, but it might mean finding ourselves in unusual situations so that we can help others find the truth.

Hope that helps. I will pray for you.

3:31 PM  

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