Now that much of the excitement and all the “rah-rah” will calm down about the 150th anniversary of our diocese, I wonder, “How do we keep this level of enthusiasm and excitement going in our parishes as we progress forward for another 150 years?”
As singer Whitney Houston once put it: “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” I can only agree with this sentiment. I believe the future of any parish or diocese DOES depend on how well our young people are responding with their commitment to follow Christ. As a pastor, it doesn’t make any difference whether they attend Catholic school or a religious education program. Although the Catholic school does give us some advantages, we need to evangelize everyone. So what matters the most is that we are here to ensure the Catholic faith thrives.
The “we” I’m talking about is not just me, the pastor, the Catholic school or our teachers in religious ed, but all of us: priests, teachers, catechists and parents. We all have a role to play in the spiritual formation of our youths. This needs the cooperation of everyone involved. This is a team effort. If our parishes and the diocese want to survive another 150 years, then it’s going to take a group effort of cooperation and participation on everyone’s part. This is why parents need to be more proactive in their children’s formation. Religious education classes can only do so much one night a week for an hour or so; it cannot take the place of what happens in the home the other six days.
Today it’s more important than ever to teach our young people about the life of Jesus and the way to get to heaven. We do this by having a strong commitment to the real presence of Jesus in our lives. That’s why it is of utmost importance to attend Mass on the weekends. Our young need to be taught that gathering together at weekend Mass and receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist is how they can overcome the problems our modern-day world will throw at them. They need the “industrial strength” of the Sacraments to overcome the teen problems of drugs, violence, alcohol and other mental health issues. At St. Joseph Ridge and St. Peter in Middle Ridge, we are equipping our young people with a strong prayer life through Eucharistic Adoration and commitment to our Mother Mary in the Rosary to combat a world today that is anything but Christian.
Looking forward to the next 150 years … If we do our jobs (vocations) correctly, then our youths will still be participating in our Catholic Church long after receiving the sacrament of Confirmation, which is not a graduation, but a beginning. And this is something indeed to get excited about!
Father Timothy J. Welles, pastor of St. Peter Parish, Middle Ridge, and St. Joseph Parish, St. Joseph’s Ridge