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Creating Catechetical Moments by Brandon Morel
It was a Sunday morning, and my wife had gotten up to make a big breakfast. On our table we had, eggs, bacon, pancakes, fruit and the only thing for me to wait on was for the coffee pot to finish. It was at this time that my 8 year old son Christian randomly begins to ask questions about death.
What could have been an awkward topic was actually one that made a father like me proud. On his own he began asking about the intricacies of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. Just the night before during our prayer time and scripture reading, we read about the Kingdom of Heaven. This conversation must have stayed with him overnight and compelled him to want to explore a little more. I explained to him the difference between the three spaces, and how we get there, as well as the need to pray for the souls in purgatory, and the answers seem to have been good enough for his questions. Later on at Mass, I ended up with another proud moment when after receiving Holy Communion he knelt to pray and I overheard him say “Jesus, I want to pray now for the souls in Purgatory.” Not only did he explore his faith, but immediately put it into practice in a way that an 8 year old could.
Working in Youth Ministry has us always yearning to create these sorts of moments, not only with our friends and family, but especially with the young church we serve. The question is how? Sometimes it seems that many of our youth ministry programs are limited to a once a week gathering that does not develop into further dialogue throughout the week. In this case with my son, he was able to ask his questions because of our relationship. I can think of many instances where this has happened with teens and with their parents over the years.
In the Gospel story of the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), Jesus meets two of his disciples and walks with them for miles, hearing their concerns, teaching, and then sharing a meal with them. Youth ministry should very much look like this – building relationships with the young people and families that we serve. We must walk with them in their daily lives and ultimately in the end bring them back to the “breaking of the bread” or the Eucharist.
My ministry has 2 parts that I like to call “The Lounge” and “The Session”. The lounge is simply a place where teens can “hang out”, playing video games, doing homework, creating art, and just having a safe space to be with friends. It is during this time that I am able to intentionally sit with them and ask questions about their lives to build a bond deeper than a large group setting. The “Session” is where we directly teach, with topics, scripture, the lives of the saints, and sections from the Catechism. It is a program of talks, videos, music, prayer, and small group discussions that form the faith weekly. The two aspects work hand in hand to not only form in the faith but also create relational bonds.
Another thing I have done is asking my leaders/core members to each pick 2 students (and their families) that they will develop a deeper relationship with. Outside of “youth group” they are to reach out once or twice a week just to check-in with these young people and their families. Whether it is something serious like a parent in the hospital, or something simple like asking who won their soccer game, it creates a continuous bond that goes beyond the “program” youth ministry sometimes gets boxed into. In the past, I have attended kids’ basketball games and have been invited by families to their daughter’s Quinceañera. I have been to school plays, and recitals, and have written reference letters for jobs/colleges for teens. One of the parents of one of the teens was even the DJ at my wedding. It is during these encounters where some of the best teaching moments have occurred - outside of “youth group.” Of course this requires an extra time commitment, which is why I ask the leaders to only choose 2 teens.
For me, as an Idente Missionary, I am consistently challenged by my “Vow of Cathedra” and “Apostolic Vow.” One, to defend the Church or the Chair of Peter. And two, to consistently seek to be an apostle wherever I go. The two go together, as I must continuously teach and be formed in my faith in order to defend it, and also develop relationships in order to move the Gospel forward in today’s world. The key is that those we serve not only see us as “teachers” but as members of the family who stay rooted in their faith always. When they are able to witness our own moments of struggles and our perseverance in Christ, they will be more likely to come to us with their own questions and we can answer them in a way that is natural and not forced. But this only comes from building a relationship of trust.
I end this simply with a prayer that as we continue to bring souls to heaven with our work, we say yes to the graces necessary to be Saints and transmit that sanctity to all who we encounter; teaching the fullness of truth in Christ and his church. With the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary, St. Joseph, and our guardian angels I pray for the young church of New York in Jesus name. Amen.
- The Symbol
- All is Love
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These are my thoughts . . . My Beliefs . . . My Actions . . . Everything I do. This is the documentation of my quest towards creating more unity in the community by authentic #LOVE.
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