When I came into this vicariate eight years ago, I started attending the Youth Ministry Awards in the spring. Every time I was at the banquet, I would be blown away by the huge number of awardees that came from St Paul of the Cross parish. I could not believe how many teens showed up from St Paul’s. I was almost jealous of the youth ministry program here until I learned that I was becoming the pastor of St Paul’s. I am really proud of our ministry to teens and I am glad that Caroline Hopkinson is providing them such effective leadership.
In the short time that Caroline has been the youth minister, she has accomplished a lot. In particular I want to mention how she has made our teens get enthusiastic about the summer service trips. There is a group going to Minnesota in June, accompanied by Fr Muraya. There will be a second group serving in New Orleans in July. If possible, I would like to join them even for a couple of days. Both these service trips are filled. More than forty teens will be participating and they will be chaperoned by adults. They will get their hands dirty as they repair homes, clean neighborhoods and visit with people.
I want to encourage the whole parish to embrace our young people because they are not only the future of the Church; they are also the present. They energize our community. Over the last year our teen choir has been helping us pray better by singing and ministering at Mass twice a month. They have served at various parish events. I have had a couple of occasions to interact with them and I am touched by their openness, faith and enthusiasm. Right now they are trying to raise money to partially fund their service trips. Please offer them your whole-hearted support. I pray that all of us will make a strong commitment to our young people and embrace our youth ministry in every way possible.
Before I became a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, I was a member of the Salesian Society, the second largest religious order in the Church. The Salesians dedicate their lives to serve the young, especially the poorest and the most neglected. All my life I have worked with young people. Among the many years I ministered in this country, I cherish the five years that I spent as a campus minister at the University of Illinois. Even during my six-and-a-half years at St Anne’s in Barrington, I devoted a large portion of my time to the young people of the parish and the young adults of the archdiocese. In other words, I emphasize that youth ministry is very dear to my heart, and I hope that all of you feel the same way.
As our young people get confirmed in eighth grade, they no longer have an institutional incentive to keep them coming back to church. The goal of our youth ministry is to keep them engaged through a variety of means: social events, prayer, participation in the liturgy, service opportunities and retreats. We need to hold on to them not only for their sakes but also ours. What we do for youth ministry today will pay rich dividends in the near future. Having them as a vital part of our worshiping community will renew and revitalize our personal as well as our collective faith lives.
Finally, I would like to propose that reaching out to our young people and drawing more teens (as well as young adults) to St Paul’s should be our two significant ministerial priorities. As a parish community we are called upon to walk with our young people, just like the God of Exodus. Even when the people of Israel refused to listen and were often ungrateful, God continued to walk with them. He led them to the Promised Land but the journey was often painful. The end of the road was not always clear. We need to walk with our young people, with constant encouragement, patient dedication and persevering prayer. May the Lord who loves children and youth bless our efforts!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...