Thursday, January 25, 2007

What I am looking for these days...(Youth, Ministry and Music)

Amy Welborn touches on this once in a while, but I'd hope to start a serious discussion about it. My new life makes these questions of really significant professional, as well as personal and spiritual.

Many, many readers and members of St. Blog's seem to agree that catechesis of the young is in appalling shape nationally, even if there are a few exceptions here and there. But it often seems that agreement ends there. So, let me ask specifically: what exactly is wrong with it?

Second, what kinds of youth ministry seem to be exceptions? What works?

Third, music is a really hot topic, and Amy certainly has her views, both theological and aesthetic, many of which I agree with. But if we are to renew musical aspects of liturgy in the nation, it has to go hand in hand with catechesis, which means no more "This Little Light of Mine" at the confirmation Masses. If we want to restore primacy of place to chant, then we have to teach kids chant when their tastes are still being formed. So my question: what resources exist for teaching children the richness of our heritage, without turning them off? It's all fine to say "Well, just hit them with chant and make them like it!" but it's not really very useful. Yes, yes, by all means, teach chant. But are there resources specifically aimed at young people that work! That are shown over time to improve appreciation for, understanding of, and even preference for, chants, in the minds of students?

Any input is extremely welcome.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Several of my children are involved in a group of Catholic teenagers that conducts Confirmation retreats at parishes. The Confirmation retreat format that they use is more evangelistic than it is catechetical. This is because most of the confirmandi have not yet been evangelized. This group only goes where they’re invited by the pastor. The day begins with some live (several of the teens play instruments) contemporary-worship-type music and icebreakers. Most of the day consists of a few (5 or 6) 10-minute talks followed by discussion in pre-arranged small groups. At one point, they are each offered the opportunity to pray one-on-one with their group leader. Several skits are also performed during the course of the day. The talks cover topics like God’s love, sin and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Prayer, Chastity, Vocations (they use the short but ultra-powerful “Fishers of Men” video from the USCCB). Following a talk on the Holy Eucharist that includes the story of the woman who was healed by touching Jesus’ garment, the kids experience a time of Eucharistic Adoration (most don’t even know what that is!) where the priest’s stole is wrapped around the base of the monstrance, and the kids have the opportunity to individually kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, touch the stole, and pray for whatever their heart moves them to pray for. The key to the effectiveness of these retreats is that each of the teens in the core group has had a personal encounter with Christ and is striving to grow in holiness. They include their own personal testimonies in their talks, which seems to open the hearts of the retreatants.

The unanticipated surprise is how this retreat affects the DRE’s and other adults who are present helping out with food, etc. The adults are so moved and inspired by what they see and hear from the teens! So much so that we are now encouraging the parish to invite the parents and sponsors of the retreatants to attend the retreat, and we are providing adults to facilitate discussion groups among those parents/sponsors. Evangelization is happening!!!

~Walter in Scranton

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there, I just came over from Amy's site. About catechesis, this is my .02, I'll try to be brief.

I'm 38, born/raised/schooled Catholic. Due to my own stupidity my religious and moral foundation fell apart in high school and especially college. No need for specifics but by around my mid 20's I had the outward trappings of Gen-X 'success' but my soul was certainly a very dark place.

To save the conversion story: it happened, years later here I am after many confessions, rosaries, lots of help from the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

I've pondered the why I fell as I did. All the usual explanations of how sin wipes out grace, our self-love shoving God out of the way and so on. While all that is true I've often reflected at that despite my "Catholic" upbringing and education, I always saw some sort of wall between "religious life" and "life". Religion is something you did, not who you are. As a result when hard times, suffering or mere temptation came along, I never put two and two together and realized that God was there the whole time. I was joined sacramentally to God in my soul but never saw it that way. In short, life soon became bereft of any meaning. Sure, the secular culture force feeds this to all of us but for me it really sunk in. I never saw God as part of anything in my life and the world, to tragic results.

Now, I 'get it' and despite my shortfals and sins, know that God is very much indeed part of my life.

Now, to catechesis for our youth today. Now that I have kids I know I'm primarially responsible for doing this in tandem with their formal religious education, but somehow I pray my kids will understand what I never did until I was an adult. Somehow we Catholics need to teach and prove to our youth that Christ is the center of history and our lives. Even when our lives seem to be falling apart we can rely on Him. God really is part of the human condition, not some disinterested parent or puppeteer "out there." Life is beautiful and has meaning, our actions can impact this reality for better or worse but regardless of how we feel or how we act, God exists and is right there all the while.

Good luck with your project, God bless your endeavor.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Kids pick up on what is really important.

Do the adults all try to involve themselves in catechesis? No? Then that means catechesis is kid stuff.

Do the adults care about music enough to teach themselves or go to chant classes? No? Then they don't really care.

To every person reading this now: Do you care about the future of the Church? Are you a catechist? Why not?

2:43 PM  
Blogger Jeff Miller said...

Welcome back.

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Jared said...

Welcome Back.

1) I think much of the catechesis is determined by the parents. Either parents care and live the Gospel, or they don't and neither do the kids. It is not 100%, but my experience has shown me that chances are greater to raise holy kids when the parents are working out their salvation in fear and trembling.

6:19 PM  
Blogger TerryC said...

What works? Years of hard work levened by the Holy Spirit.
Almost a decade ago my parish was lucky enough to have a young woman literally drop in off th estreet. We were madly searching for a youth minister and had no decent prosepects and this young military spouse, whose husband had just been posted to our area came in an offered to volunteer. She was hired as soon as we heard her qualifications, which were very good.
She started a program based on Life Teen.
It started slowly and it was not until those teen who were in our middle school program reached high schoo that we really started seeing the results. Now it's almost become self-regulating, as we are starting to have college grads come back as adult volunteers who were in high school when we started.

10:38 PM  
Anonymous Kathy said...

From the experiance I've had (teaching CCD for my 12th year, Coordinated for 9 years,) with lots of disappointments, I've come to a conclusion. While I don't have a "quick fix" answer, I can clearly see that a huge problem is that we are going on our 3rd or 4th generation of poorly catechised Catholics. The children are not retaining what they learn in class, because it is not also taught in the home. I was shocked years ago when I found out that most of these kids don't say grace before meals, prayers before bed (or at anytime.) Some have even said that they have never heard a parent offer to pray for a sick friend. There is such a huge deficit, and 1 hour a week can never fill it all back in. Part of what we can do, is to offer catechesis to adults as well. Something our parish has started doing is showing Fr. John Corapi's series on the Catechism once a month following a Knights of Columbus breakfast, sending home a "traveling backpack" with the students with Catholic movies, books, and a bag of things they can keep (stickers, a plastic rosary, a coloring book of the Mass, etc.)
I can't say we've seen a big difference in a short amount of time, but a problem this big isn't going to be solved overnight, and needs "warriors" to hit their knees, offer thier sacrifices, and spend their holy hours praying for the kids.

9:45 PM  
Blogger kkollwitz said...

My wife & I have taught RCIA and/ or 'CCD' for about 10 years now, that experience is the basis for my comments:

"What exactly is wrong with catechesis of the young?"

1. Teachers who are not adequately catechized themselves.
2. Parents who are not adequately catechized themselves.
3. Insubstantial course content.

"What kinds of youth ministry seem to work?"

I have 4 highschoolers in our parish's youthgroup, which I believe is producing motivated and informed young Catholics. We have a motivated and well-catechized (self-catechized, mostly, as I and my wife are)teacher who is also Bible-literate. The kids are treated like adults as far as faith is concerned, and they respond pretty much on a mature level.

A robust, evangelistic Catholic catechesis depends on the knowledge and motivation of the adults. It will take probably a generation to get things to where they should be, but all we can do is persevere and pray.

4:31 PM  

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