Teens witnessing their faith through actions

September 11, 2018

At a time when statistics tell us many teens are falling away from their faith, we are blessed in our Archdiocese to see a young Church come alive through both parish life and our Catholic schools. The personal journey of faith for teens begins with an encounter, and that encounter leads to action.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminds us “every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God.” At St. John XXIII College Preparatory, our students are able to encounter God first through weekly community Masses, daily opportunities for Reconciliation, and Friday Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. From these, flow works of charity and a desire among our students to witness their love for Christ by actively serving the disadvantaged, the poor, and those on the fringes in our community.

In addition to our school’s sacramental life and works of charity, regular retreats offer teens the opportunity to strengthen an ongoing relationship with Christ – and sometimes to meet Him for the first time.

As we all know, there is nothing more powerful than a teen’s witness. In the words of a student from my high school: “As a teen, I had no faith life growing up. I had fallen prey to many of the same sins other teens had, namely drinking and partying. It wasn’t until I attended a Catholic high school that I was able to finally see a way out. I had many teachers who modeled the faith to me through their willingness to help me. Witnessing their joy and love for the Lord made me want to have what they had. But it was so hard because the tug of fitting in and peer pressure kept me tied to my sin.”

“One day at Mass, I heard the priest say, ‘there is nothing that you can do to make God love you any less.’ I felt like he was talking directly to me and at that moment I made the decision to attend the next Kairos retreat at my school. It was during that weekend that I found Christ’s mercy and love for me. I listened to other teens that were just like me sharing their witnesses, and I realized that we all have burdens that we carry — and some are heavier than others. What I noticed about these witnesses was that these teens actually did something about it.

“Instead of continuing to go down the path they were going, they decided to stand up and say yes to God. I knew that I would have to make drastic changes in my life and that the only way I could do that was with the help of all of the people God had placed in my life to walk this journey with me. I was even able to finally take the steps necessary to be confirmed before I graduated. I remember being so happy and thanking God for surrounding me with such a beautiful Catholic community that was able to reach out to me and love me where I was. I don’t know where I would be without their courage.”

“As St. Mother Teresa says, ‘If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.’ I did just that. Through my witness to my family, God touched my dad in a special way. After watching me, he decided to attend RCIA classes and to enter the Church. And he asked me to be his sponsor! 

About a year later, my sister also went through RCIA classes and entered the Church, with my dad as her sponsor. Through the witness of those around me, I was finally able to turn my life over to the Lord and was then able to watch my family do the same.”

The Lord moves in such unexpected and beautiful ways in our lives. We need only to be open to receiving His love.

By intentionally recognizing the connection between encounter and action, we can all live our baptismal calls to evangelize and invite those to whom we minister to be powerful witnesses of the Gospel.

Sheri DeMois is the director of evangelization for St. John XXIII College Preparatory.