Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Surprise: The Young Are Watching

By EFFIE CALDAROLA, CNS | Published January 29, 2004

Our parish’s new stewardship director was bursting to tell us about the International Catholic Stewardship Council’s October conference in Chicago. He said one of its most impressive presentations was given by teens from the Chicago Archdiocese. A panel of young people spoke about how they live out stewardship in their lives as teenage Catholics.

“After the presentation, a lot of people had questions,” said our director. “One person asked, ‘Who was the biggest influence in your growth as a Catholic?’”

“Almost to a person,” he said, “the kids answered that it was their families who had influenced them.”

“And then,” said our young director, who is closer to the age of those teenagers than to those of us who were sitting around the table listening, “you could see tears in the eyes of most of the adults in the room. You could tell they were thinking, ‘It works. Our efforts and our example do work.’”

As he told this story, I felt glad that people sitting in the conference room were congratulating themselves. I, on the other hand, was panicking.

Am I raising children who are good stewards and who proudly will identify themselves as active Catholics?

I have a daughter in college. I’m proud of her as a thoughtful, not uncritical, but caring Catholic. Now I have two more to go, a teenager and an almost teen. One is solidly into the “I’m getting nothing out of religious ed and Mass is boring” phase. Should I worry?

Maybe not if I can answer yes to a few questions.

Is my faith a visible and active part of my life?

Do my children know I have a special time and place for prayer each day?

Is Sunday Mass a prayerful time for me and not a routine obligation? Do I sometimes search for different styles of liturgies or different homilists so my children can get a sense of the broad scope of thought and worship our church encompasses?

Do my children see me going to Mass occasionally on days other than Sunday?

Are there good Catholic periodicals in our house?

Am I an active member of my parish, volunteering to help with a ministry or need? Do I take my children with me, if possible, when I volunteer at a food pantry or shelter? Or when I attend a parish gathering?

Do I care about social justice issues and speak of them in light of Catholic social teaching? Do my children see me sacrificing to contribute monetarily toward my parish and other causes?

Do I help out sometimes in my children’s religious education program and not just drop them at the door? Do I carry their education over into discussion at the dinner table?

Do I belong to a prayer group or join an adult-faith education class?

Do my children see that I am not afraid to discuss issues of corruption, injustice or wrong within the institutional church? Do they sense that I am being critical, not as an outsider looking in, but as a family member who wants only the best for my family, the church?

Do I establish liturgical customs in our home at Christmas, Lent and Easter?

Do I relate my morality, honesty, worship and interactions with others to the example of Jesus Christ?

Do I discuss current affairs, such as our recent war against Iraq, in light of the concerns of Pope John Paul II and our bishops?

In short, is my Catholicism part of how my children define me?

It’s a tall order. I gave myself good marks on some questions, “needs improvement” on others.