Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo by Thomas Spink
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory adds to the prayer chain at Middle School Fest, held Feb. 27 at St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn. More than 800 middle-schoolers attended the daylong event, during which they created a chain of prayers to send to those in prison. El Arzobispo Wilton D. Gregory añade un eslabón a la cadena de oración durante el festival de escuela secundarias, celebrado el 27 de febrero en St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn. Más de 800 estudiantes de secundaria asistieron a este evento de un día, durante el cual crearon una cadena de oraciones que enviarán a aquellos en prisión.

Encircled and affirmed by the energy of teenagers

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published March 2, 2016  | En Español

I spent most of last Saturday with teenagers—almost a thousand of them! And it was absolutely wonderful. I am sure that more than a few parents of teenagers might shudder at the thought of being encircled by teenage energy for such a long period of time, but it was life-giving for me.

The young men and women who gathered at St. Monica’s Church for the annual Scouting Mass received medals and certificates for achieving the goals established for special projects that combine Catholic faith and scouting fun.

Our Catholic scouting programs help youngsters understand their duty as citizens, their faith as Catholics and their obligations to care for the earth, which is our common home. Our scouts should continue to take to heart the lessons that Pope Francis has offered to the entire Church in his encyclical, “Laudato Si´,” to have a much greater reverence and respect for the planet that not only sustains our life but is intended to sustain the lives of all future generations of people as well.

The adult scout leaders encourage these youngsters in their development as Catholics and as responsible citizens. We owe these guides a great debt of gratitude for their generous devotion to our kids.

Scouting is intended to build character, and our faith is a primary source for character building that includes those vitally important components of Catholic teaching and social justice obligations. Scouts are not just taught how to care for the earth but how to care for other people and to respect one another. They are formed by our faith and virtuous civic principles.

For the second year, this past Saturday middle-schoolers from parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta were invited to spend a day together at St. John Neumann Church—a day that included prayer, religious instruction, music, social service projects and, of course, lots of fun! The 800-plus youngsters enjoyed each other’s company, consumed a Chick-fil-A lunch and hopefully made some new friends.

As usual, our youngsters were energetic and quite hopeful. Kids learn differently than we adults do—but also probably much faster than most of us.

By the time we celebrated Mass at the end of the day, they felt very comfortable with each other and appeared as if they had known each other for years.

One of the projects that they undertook during the day was to create a prayer chain with individual prayer links that will eventually be shared with people in prison. Those prayers that come from the hearts of youngsters may touch the hearts of folks who languish in prison and well may have forgotten what being a child was like.

There were also opportunities throughout the day for our youngsters to understand how important it is to care for the earth and to preserve its precious gifts. Kids today have often been told about the importance of caring for the environment and those lessons were underscored throughout the day.

As they closed the day together, we celebrated the Eucharist. The bright faces of our kids at sunset were a blessing to behold as they prayed together and then shared the Eucharistic gift that binds us all together in Christ.

Pope Francis recently issued a book, “Dear Pope Francis,” in which he responded to some of the questions that kids have asked him in their letters. As I concluded the Mass with our youngsters, I regretted that our kids didn’t have a chance to ask Pope Francis some of the questions that filled their hearts last Saturday. He would have been impressed, I am sure.

View the video of the annual archdiocesan Scout Mass: