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The Message
Evansville, Indiana
May 8, 1998     The Message
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May 8, 1998

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10 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana I r Stepping into a By FATHER HERB WEBER Catholic News Service If a group representing the parishes of our diocese gathers, someone almost always will say that the youth of the church need more attention. Sometimes this is stated in a frantic way, such as "We must save our youth!" Other times the call has a touch of evan- gelization, as in "Let's help our youth appropriate the faith." Finally, there are those who simply ask, "Where are our young people?" The irony is that these endless con- cerns continue in spite of a very success- ful diocesan youth ministry and many active parish youth programs. Somehow the concern to incorporate younger parishioners' into the parish fabric always .is around. In days gone b); naming a vibrant young associate pastor to work with teen-agers may have been sufficient. But for many reasons, including the dimin- ished number of young priests available for such ministry, that time is more or less gone -- although there are still priests who appeal to young people or who have the welfare of youth close to their own hearts. What is needed today for a youth- friendly parish is a two-pronged approach. At first glance, the two "prongs" may seem like opposites How- ever, they wholly complement each other. First, parishes must find ways to "include youth and take them seriously. Second, parishes need to allow young people to speak their own lan- guage. Let me explain. St. John's Parish has high school stu- dents involved in all the ministries at one of its regular Sunday Masses. Note that it is one of the regular Masses and is not billed as a "youth" Mass. The teens work with the music leader in preparing and leading the music. They also serve as lectors and ushers. Their role is to serve the entire community. At St. Thomas More Parish, high school and younger children are allowed to be readers. Fre- quently, those of any age are incorporated into the music of the liturgy. One youngster, an oboe virtuoso at the age of 12, regularly contributes his talents to the liturgical celebration. In both cases, the parish- . ,, es have made attempts to include, accept and incor- porate the youth into regu- lar and normal activities of the parish. Liturgy is a great place to start, but there should be more. Parishes. that have tried to include youth on their pastoral councils have had limited success. Teen-agers may feel distinctly out of place with groups of adults, especially in a meeting- type setting. Task groups and work teams are better settings for placing youth and adults side by Side. Nevertheless, when youth are part of any team, they have to be respected and taken seriously. The risk that a group takes in inviting young people is that the youths may present them with challenging ideas, ideas that the older members may not want to hear. If youth are not taken seriously, no one should be surprised when they don't return. As our parish gears up for the RENEW 2000 program this coming fall, we have tried to pay special attention to youth. By far the best way to have young people as part of some of the program's small groups is to have them involved in some of the planning and organizing. Simply telling young people what they will want and like simply doesn't work. That leads to the second quality of a  .   ii: j::):/Lii)  :! )!j" i:i  ,, " : . ii; .;! "What is needed today for a youth-frierd- ly parish is a two-pronged approach," explains Father Herb Weber. "First, parish- es must find ways to include youth and take them seriously. to allow young people language." youth-friendly parish: It gives young people enough room to express them- selves. Our teen group inspired me dur- ing Holy Week when they did a very contemporary Stations of the Cross. Using popular music and their own understanding of Jesus" journey to Cal- vary, they found the Christian message taking root in their own personal expres- sions. I was especially happy to see some adults other than their parents attend to pray with them. Adult parishioners spend an incredi- ble amount of time trying to get teens to join them or conform to their perspec- tives. Sometimes, however, adults need to listen to teens. And when teens don't pray in the same style as adults, should- n't the older is precisely One su( involves the These are special limited to young lowed by d socializing. ful because they are Held at times mal Sunday schedule. language of experiences ..... young people. The same thing is t Encounter christ) or! movements. Their Bringingthe Bible home to children ................................... By FATHER EUGENE LAVERDIERE, S.S.S. Catholic News Service As a child, I never read the Bible. We had a family Bible at home, but it stayed in the bookcase near our fireplace. But somehow I grew up very familiar with Bible stories. I credit it to our parochial school. We had a catechism, of course. We also had a little book with interesting Bible stories from the Old Tes- tament and the New Testament. A Sister read and retold the stories to us. Each child in turn read a few lines from the samestories out loud in the classroom. We also read them at home to our parents as part of our homework. I liked the Bible stories. I know that I grew up in another world. In those days we did not even have television,Today, it is harder to bring the Bible home to a 10-year-old. But there are ways. In many parishes, children have a spe- cial Liturgy of the Word. The children come for Sunday Mass with their parents. After the opening prayer, the children are called forward and leave the church for a Liturgy of the Word adapted to their age. For them, it usually focuses on that Sunday's Gospel reading. Those who lead-the children in their Liturgy of the Word introduce them to the church's stories of faith. So leaders of this Liturgy of the Word must: Know and love the stories they tell and appreciate what they could mean to young people, and Love the young people as children of God entrusted to them by the Christ- ian community. Bible stories are stories of faith. It is important to remember that faith is not taught. It is caught andshown. From the leader the children not only learn about faith. They catch the spirit of the story in faith. Little by little, the leader or lector brings the Bible home to the children. Telling the story, the teacher can stop and explain it step by step and invite questions from the children. The atmosphere should be animated and reverent. The setting should include liturgical symbols -- for example a Bible, a candle representing the light of Christ, perhaps flowers. A child could light the candle while the other children look on in silence. The children have to know that what they are doing is important. They also have to be part of the process; the leader should ask questions while telling the story, thus inviting dialogue. Before returning to the church to join their parents for children s parents when they did Father and sen r