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The Message
Evansville, Indiana
June 5, 1998     The Message
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June 5, 1998

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8 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Junl How By TOM EVERSON Catholic News Service @ "Nick, I can't believe you brought Jack Daniels on retreat!" "Dan and Pam, why are you wander- ing off into the woods to be alone? Do you even know each other's last name?" "Mario, why are you always running kids off the sidewalk with your bike?" Do these questions and statements conjure up images of youths you have met and cared for in your parish? If so, welcome to the real world of youth and family ministry in parish and school settings. The question we, as youth ministers, religious educators, family-life ministers, pastors and parents (quite simply, adults who care about kids and their families) must ask is, "What can parishes do to reach out to seriously troubled youths?" I suggest a two-pronged approach that reaches out to troubled youths and families: 1. Be "proactive" in reaching out to and supporting parents of young chil- dren. :..: ...... -- 2. Commit to actively inviting and engaging at-risk people in the life of your church family. But how can we proactively reach out both to young families and young people? The Center for Adolescent and Family Spirituality at Father Flanagan's Boys' Town is committed to supporting youths and families in three ways. We: -- Teach skills. Build relationships. Empower family members through togetherness. These three are tightly linked. Empowerment is a key role we as parish family must play. We can make a difference by providing support for fam- ilies through opportunities to learn how to build caring relationships. reach out to troubled We baptize children. But do we sup- port the parents of these children in learning how to live baptism in every- day family life? We can be more proactive in the evan- gelization and formation of parents of children between one and seven. We can support parents by showing them how to teach children the skills necessary to live Gospel values in everyday life. And what do these skills look like? They look like family members who honor the commandment "You shall not steal" by asking permission before bor- rowing others' possessions, by accepting no for an answer when a no answer is given, and by saying thank you and returning possessions intact when a yes answer is given. These represent skills needed to.put faith into action. Each of the Ten Commandments can be broken down into teachable skills. Our vision as a parish should be to sup- port parents in being their children's first catechist by teaching these skills. When we miss these opportunities, we often encounter adolescents who do not know how to build relationships. (This can happen, however, even though in some instances parents have done all within their power to teach their children to build healthy relationships.) Effective strategies for reaching these young people include: Outreach. This means going where young people are -- their schools, the park, the mall, etc. We cannot encounter and invite young people to share in our parish community's support if we are not willing to be with them on their turf. As we invite young people to join our parishes, we must provide safe envi- ronments. This means having structure and clear limits. No young person can survive, let alone thrive, without specif- ic rules governing the behavior of all gathered. i "High-risk youths most often do not know what a healthy like, let alone have the skills to build one," says Tom Everson, a t Boys Town in Nebraska. Skills for parishes to teach, he to introduce yourself; how to greet others; how to have to set appropriate physical, verbal and emotional boundaries; '" pray and worship with the community." CNS photo from Provide programming and support services that meet at-risk youths' real needs. A good starting point is to inte- grate the teaching of relationships skills into every component of our ministry. High-risk youths most often do not know what a healthy relationship looks like, let alone have the skills to build one. Skills to teach include how to intro- duce yourself; how to greet others; how to have a conversation; how to set appro- priate physical, verbal and emotional boundaries; how to compliment others; how to accept compliments; how to tell the truth; how to make and accept an J..00esus, way00with ;troubled people .......... manded us to stone such a woman. So what do you say?" Instead of answering, Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground. He ignored the accusation. Then, straightening up, he said, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone." After her accusers left, Jesus asked her, "Has no one condemned you?... Nei- ther do I condemn you. Go (and) from now on do not sin anymore." Jesus did not even condemn the woman's accusers! Speaking to troubled people, it was not the words Jesus spoke that made a dif- ference. It was his attitude. We can summarize Jesus' attitude with one word: "love." His relationship to troubled persons, asking them to speak about their trouble, listening, came from his love for them. Jesus never withdrew his love. But to love can be hard. Recall Jesus' dying prayer: "Father, By FATHER EUGENE LaVERDIERE, S.S.S. Catholic News Service Jesus knew what Bartimaeus wanted from the beginning. But Bartimaeus him- self had to express it. Consider also the disciples of Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). They were troubled. Dis- couraged, they were abandoning the community. When Jesus caught up with them, they looked downcast. So Jesus asked what they were dis- cussing. They responded, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place here in these days?". Jesus didn't answer directly. Instead he asked, "What sort of things?" Only after hearing them, Jesus answered. He first listened to them. Then they were able to listen to him. In our terms, Jesus established a trust- hag relationship with them. Consider also the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11). Scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery and trap Jesus: "Now in the law, Moses corn- When troubled people came to Jesus or were brought to him, he spoke to them. After listening, they went away in peace. Reading those stories, we would like to learn "his secret." Actually, Jesus did not have a secret. Reading closely, we find, first, that Jesus did not speak "at" them. He spoke "to" them. Even better, he spoke with them. Often we assume we know what trou- bles a person, especially if we know the person like a son or daughter. Jesus did not do that. Instead, he asked what trou- bled them. Consider Bartimaeus, the blind beggar (Mark 10:46-52). Bartimaeus was calling to Jesus. When Jesus heard him, he asked, "What do you want me to do for you?" Bartimaeus answered, ,Master, I want to see." apology; how to listen to pray and worship Teaching these skills supportive environment no matter what their Finally, get young service to others in through an adoF gram, serving meals at a being a cheerle Olympics. is tq chance to get ents and energies in benefit others. See TRG . forgive them, they knOW do." Jesus really loved who condemned Are we up to the Father LaVerdiere, a priest, is a Scriptu tor of Emmanuel To