Thursday, March 5, 2009

Keeping the Faith at Home

Ten key insights about living the faith at home from the Hispanic teens' focus groups...

1. Open communication in the family makes a difference. Knowing what is happening in the lives of others family members allows them to support and pray for one another. It strengthens family bonds.

2. The holidays, especially Christmas, is a special and happy time. Teens agreed that when they get the opportunity to actively participate in family traditions the holidays are much more fun. Even families with little or no church involvement practice some Christmas traditions.
Las Posadas Pictures, Images and Photos

3. Grandma is often identified as the keeper of the faith. Many of the teens described their grandmothers as very religious and wise. They respect her devotion to Mary through the rosary and consider her an inspiration.

4. Parents were described as having the responsibility of guiding their children in the faith. There was a concern, however, that parents need to be more open to the teens having questions about the faith. Teens also felt that sometimes their parents spend so much time at church that they forget about having fun, like going out to play a game of baseball together.
baseball Pictures, Images and Photos

5. Mom is seen as someone who walks with them of their faith journey by taking them to church and teaching them how to pray.

6. Dad, often seen as an authority figure, is someone they go to when they are seeking answers for specific questions. This is especially true when the teens have observed dad engaged in his own faith formation.

7. Any popular religious traditions practiced at home provide a sense of security. Their level of understanding of the specific traditions doesn't really affect that feeling of being protected.

8. Families where the parents don't go to church but the children do often avoid the topic of faith or religion in order to avoid conflict.

9. The one thing that absolutely does not work is having the kids participate in a spiritual practice or activity without explaining why.
WHY!!! Pictures, Images and Photos
Once "it" has purpose and meaning, it is no longer considered boring or useless. With deeper understanding comes a deeper appreciation of the faith and traditions.

10. When the spiritual practices they grew up with at home are no longer a part of their lives, they actually miss them. They almost appeared to be waiting for someone to bring these experiences back into their lives.

FAITH Pictures, Images and Photos

Monday, February 16, 2009

Be Bold - Be Proud - Be Catholic

i am a child of god Pictures, Images and Photos
In our conversations with this particular group of Latino teens, they described being Catholic as a part of their identity. They were born into the Catholic faith and, like their Hispanic culture, it defines them. Being Catholic is something to be proud of, to be a "child of God." As children of God, they are also part of a larger family. This second family, the Church family, provides a network of people they can look up to and go to for help and support in times of trouble.

Being Catholic meant going to Church on Sunday. But going to Church was more than attending mass. It was about helping out and participating at church. It was about celebrating the different liturgical seasons. It was about the family sharing a meal and spending time together after mass. For a number of these young Latinos, family life revolved around parish life.

But as one young person stated being Catholic is not just going church. They also talked about our responsibility as Catholics to build up the Kingdom. Being Catholic is a way of life that requires that you
  • follow Jesus and share the Good News
  • treat others with respect and help those in need
  • study the scriptures and pray
  • forgive and are forgiven
I have to admit that these kids struggled to articulate what being Catholic meant to them. Their conversations were more concerned with the experience of Church than the content of the faith. But what was clear was their love for God and the Church.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Yes we can! depends.

Yes we can Pictures, Images and Photos
One of the goals of youth ministry is "to empower young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in our world today." (RTV, 9) The young people are challenging us to follow through on our promise and help them develop the skills they need in order to affect change in their own lives and in the lives of their peers. They strongly believe that a relationship with God serves as a protective factor against the negative influences in their lives. They also view the youth group as a type of support group and they encourage the Church to offer more... more groups, more activities. It was fun to watch them during the focus groups gently invite one another to take part in each other's parish programs.

These young people want more than prayers. They are looking for immediate solutions. They want the Catholic Church to do whatever it takes to meet the needs that are present in their communities: raise funds for needy families, offer affordable day care for teen moms so they can go to school, provide tutoring programs and host job fairs. They want us to show them the possibilities and help them get there.

As I mentioned last week, one of the major challenges facing Latino teens is their relationship with their parents. One young person felt that priests would be a good resource to address this particular topic. The priest was described as someone that could help give advice to parents on how they can improve their relationship with their teenage children. These teens were very understanding of their parents' situation but the "when I was your age" stories are getting old. These teens are looking for someone who can advocate for them. Someone to help their parents better understand the generational and cultural differences they are living. They would like someone to talk to their parents about how to communicate with their kids without judging them. They also feel their parents would benefit from a workshop on how to address the tough issues like the "sex talk." Overall, they want to have a better relationship and more meaningful conversations with their parents.

To me, the hopefulness shared by these young people is an expression of the relationship between the Hispanic youth ministry leaders and the teens. Their experiences and the support that they receive through youth ministry has made such an impact on their lives, that they are confident that it can have the same impact on others. They believe that the Church can make a difference, one person at a time.

There was one thing that they felt powerless to change. They felt racism and discrimination was so real, so big and so pervasive that they could not imagine a time when it would not be an issue.  It's just the way it is.  While they believe that there are ways to increase cultural awareness and build community within a parish, some did not think that you could do anything to change society. And they would not be alone. If this is the case, what can we do to help them cope with the negative effects of racism and discrimination?  How can we help them heal?

racism Pictures, Images and Photos