One cannot remember what or whom one does not know. Ecclesiastes 12:1- to remember your creator in the days of your youth is only possible if you know your Creator in the days of your youth. The Message translation of Proverbs 2:22 is clear: “Point your kids in the right direction-when they’re old they won’t be lost”. Most probably, though I sometimes may be disoriented, I am not lost today because of the wonderful teachers,pastors and examples from the church of my youth. Our kids are our passion. At our Good Shepherd Church we work hard so our children and youth will know the love of God and the way of the living Christ.
This reflection begins with a picture of the teen class at Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida on Sunday 10/20/13. These smiling teens (13-18) meet with me on Sundays after church and the Sunday meal. They are energetic and enthusiastic learners. They pray, they read the Scriptures on their own and they even do homework as it is assigned. They know the Great Commandments and try to live them. They are getting to know God and Christ in relationship. They are learning to serve and not be served. Some of them have been attending our Sunday class since 2009. Then, when I asked them and some of the younger kids who appear in the next picture: “Who created our universe? Who was born on Christmas? and What happened on Easter?” they did not know the answers.
Now all of them know the answers in their heads and,more importantly, in their hearts. I have baptized twelve of our Sunday school kids. Some have graduated from the Sunday class and and now in their twenties are working or attending college. We have, perhaps, lost one young man to the lure of the gang,weapons, and drugs. I say perhaps because we are not going to let him go so easily. In the world these kids live in people are shot right in front of their homes. Economics is a very real problem and gangs promise alternate ways to get money as well as belonging and love. That we have only lost one so far is a small miracle, and one that we are working hard to continue. The love and support we offer to them and their families, the love of Christ, trumps violence and poverty and negative influences. It also trumps X Boxes and Nintendo/PlayStation/Smartphones type games that addict and supplant other forms of growth producing activities. There are many challenges we have to meet along with our kids. My heart is lifted every time I meet with these kids.
Each child or young person is special to us, from the youngest to the oldest. It is our challenge to be the face of Christ to them so they can be that for each other and in their families,schools, and neighborhoods. Teachers Pearl Cudjoe and Linda Maybin are also in this picture.
Below is Mrs. Pearl Cudjoe and the wonderful Junior class. They are fourth through 6th graders (10-12). their growth and excitement is contagious and they love their Sunday class and teacher.
This is a time when many contend that the church is losing ground. Young people rarely attend and the relevance of church to youth is questioned:
Yet, emergent forms of church seem to be working. We are a renewed Catholic church. We bought a house in the heart of the poorer community and converted it into a church. We have women priests, validly ordained servant priests. Our form of liturgy and Eucharistic celebration is communal. All are welcome at the table of Christ, who is on the Table,at the Table and around the Table.
Within the last two weeks five new youngsters joined our worship and Sunday school. We are so pleased to have these new kids with their families. We pray that each child may know that she or he is loved and precious to our God as each grows and matures.
Pastor Judy Lee, ARCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community