CLINTON: How to support young people emerging from the pandemic

July 13, 2021

Photo by Priscilla du Preez

I’ve been talking with different groups of teenagers, including the Archdiocesan Youth Council representatives, about what we need most from our parishes and the Church as a whole.

Overwhelmingly, the responses revolve around community. We come from an environment of individualism and independence. Pushed to an extreme, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve placed too much emphasis on ourselves to solve our own problems. But, in the faith, we must have that crucial bond with mentors, peers and community.
Now that many COVID-19 restrictions have been repealed, it is more important than ever for parishes to renew efforts to build and strengthen the relationships between the youth and the Church, our peers and faith outside the parish.

One of the biggest problems that Catholic youth have today is finding the mentors and sources needed when we have questions about our faith or our personal relationships with God.

One way to help young people with questions is through discussion sessions, open Q&A programs, engaging studies, or any other interactive activities. Parishes could also pick different topics each meeting and expand on those in case no one wants to ask out loud.

Any interactive form of discussion not only encourages kids to face questions they might have but also inspire them to dig deeper into their faith and learn more about it. It’s important to ask the youth for their needs, especially when our everyday sources don’t cover our questions. The Catholic faith was never meant to be experienced alone. If we are truly meant to live our lives as the Body of Christ, we need to work with one another the best we can.

One way to do this is for parishes to have more accessible volunteering opportunities so that the youth can dive into the missionary aspect of the Church, as well as better understand the Catholic social teachings and Corporal Works of Mercy. It will also allow young people to be a part of a meaningful team.

Another thing churches could do is host different workshops meant for kids of different ages who have the same interests, such as how to improve prayer life, what does each part of the Mass mean, how to be a disciple of Christ in the “real world,” how to handle difficult questions and more.

Each group should be able to feel free to have these conversations with one another, as well. Even fun activities for getting parishioners to relax and spend time with other parishioners serve a purpose in strengthening the Church because it helps us understand that the Church does more than supply an hour a week of Catholicism.

Instead, these interactions form an identity in an amazing community. Given the chance and a little guidance, kids and teenagers will suggest creative ideas, build off one another, and find solutions that make sense for them. I think once we have experiences like this inside of the parish, it makes it easier to spread them outside of the parish too.
Our faith and our community are part of our identity. My hope is that more and more kids and teens realize that Catholicism is more than an hour of Mass, but rather a crucial part of our own being that needs to be nurtured.

The pandemic pulled us away from that for a year now, but with the help of the Church, we can strengthen our relationship with the faith and with God.

I truly believe that some of the best ways parishes can help are through activities and events that engage the youth while also addressing their spiritual needs.

Each parish will have its own unique youth ministry, and the help they give will have to differ according to the parishioners’ needs. What’s important is that leaders continue asking what the young Church needs so that we work together to bring our hearts closer to Christ.

Gabriela Clinton attends St. Agnes Academy and is a member of the Archdiocesan Youth Council.