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Teens to archbishop: ‘We need more’

Local high school students share their concerns about Church, faith at listening session

MIAMI | Approximately 70 students from the archdiocese's Catholic high schools met with Archbishop Thomas Wenski April 25 to share their thoughts on their experience in the Church.

A student from Christopher Columbus High School tells Archbishop Thomas Wenski that "Music at church sounds child-like, and doesn't match the beauty and the elegance of the Mass." Next to him is Donald Edwards, associate superintendent of archdiocesan schools.

Photographer: BLANCA MORALES | FC

A student from Christopher Columbus High School tells Archbishop Thomas Wenski that "Music at church sounds child-like, and doesn't match the beauty and the elegance of the Mass." Next to him is Donald Edwards, associate superintendent of archdiocesan schools.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski listens as high school students speak.

Photographer: BLANCA MORALES | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski listens as high school students speak.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski joins Catholic high school students for a box lunch in the Pastoral Center atrium following the listening session. Here he sits with students from Archbishop Coleman Carroll High School in Miami.

Photographer: BLANCA MORALES | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski joins Catholic high school students for a box lunch in the Pastoral Center atrium following the listening session. Here he sits with students from Archbishop Coleman Carroll High School in Miami.

The listening session echoed the one that took place with Pope Francis in Rome in preparation for the October bishops’ synod on youth. The event was organized by the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry in cooperation with Donald Edwards, associate superintendent of archdiocesan schools. During the 90-minute session, the high school students were asked to answer three questions:

  • What is your (archdiocese, parish, school) doing well in bringing youth to live as an active Catholic Christian?
  • What could the (archdiocese, parish, school) be doing better to assist young people to be engaged, active Catholics?
  • What aren't we doing that we should be doing?

Two students from each grade were chosen by their campus ministers to voice their thoughts. While the students spoke one by one for two minutes each, their teachers and campus ministers took note, and the archbishop listened attentively.

Though many students praised their schools' efforts to create fun faith activities, they did not shy away from expressing what they need. Among their concerns were feeling unwelcome in parish ministries — such as becoming lectors — because of their age, thus being limited in how they can serve.

“We feel left out sometimes,” said one student.

Victor Barreto of St. Brendan High in Miami said he was grateful to be turning 18 so he can join the Emmaus group, since his home parish lacks a youth group.

Justin Valdez, a student at Christopher Columbus High and parishioner at St. Timothy in Miami, noted that his public school peers were drifting from the faith because of a lack of youth programs in their parishes. Many also expressed a desire for more structure and content in their youth groups.

Victoria Alonso, of Immaculata-La Salle High in Miami, said it was “disheartening” to see her peers forget all they learned a week after their retreat because there was no follow-up to help them continue to walk in the faith.

Students also voiced a desire for greater availability of confession at school, as well as better promotion of confirmation programs.

“It's not promoted enough,” said Kylie Grant, an 11th grade convert who attends Archbishop McCarthy High in Southwest Ranches. She had taken the initiative to receive the sacrament but felt that students need to have the opportunity to invite others to conversion.

Msgr. Edward Pace High students, from left, Yamilee Constant, grade 11, Mikeiveka Sanon, grade 12, and Dimitrie Francois, grade 12, enjoy a Panera lunch courtesy of the Archdiocese of Miami in the atrium of the Pastoral Center.

Photographer: BLANCA MORALES | FC

Msgr. Edward Pace High students, from left, Yamilee Constant, grade 11, Mikeiveka Sanon, grade 12, and Dimitrie Francois, grade 12, enjoy a Panera lunch courtesy of the Archdiocese of Miami in the atrium of the Pastoral Center.

More than 70 students from Catholic high schools gathered at the archdiocesan Pastoral Center April 25 for a pre-synod listening session with Archbishop Thomas Wenski. The event was organized by the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry along with the Office of Schools so that youths could participate in the upcoming Synod on Youth in Rome on a local level.

Photographer: BLANCA MORALES | FC

More than 70 students from Catholic high schools gathered at the archdiocesan Pastoral Center April 25 for a pre-synod listening session with Archbishop Thomas Wenski. The event was organized by the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry along with the Office of Schools so that youths could participate in the upcoming Synod on Youth in Rome on a local level.

Another student suggested making spiritual direction more available for all students, while a student at Columbus felt that music at most Masses felt childish and lost its beauty in “trying to be hip.”

The students emphasized having opportunities to serve the community both locally and abroad, beyond just once a year. Among the suggestions were mission trips during Holy Week, serving at a soup kitchen, and activities that kept them from drifting from their faith during the summer.

“I've learned a lot about myself through service,” said Julian Rodriguez, a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes in Kendall.

Being a generation that grew up online, many cried out for having resources, news and events better advertised on social media, such as Instagram. “Pope Francis uses Twitter,” one student said, noting the impact a tweet or post can have.

“We need better marketing,” St. Brendan’s Barreto said. “Youth groups aren't publicized enough. A paper sign-up isn't enough.”

One thing also was made clear: Young people need young adult role models and peer witnesses.

“We don't listen to adults,” Immaculata-La Salle’s Alonso said. “We are more impacted by one another.”

Kevin Cruz, from Archbishop Coleman Carroll High in Miami, agreed. “It would have helped to have slightly older peers share about their faith,” he said.

The goal of the listening session was to shed light on the reasons why a growing number of young people disassociate themselves from the Catholic Church, something which is taking place across the U.S. and other countries, not just in South Florida.

The students were told that not all their questions and concerns would be answered, but that the archbishop would consider them all and do what he could.

The students said they hope to be included in future efforts to reach out to their peers.

“We need more opportunities like this,” said Melanie Corrales, a freshman at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale. “Since we are the future of the Church we need to have our voice heard.” 

More than 70 students from Catholic high schools gathered at the archdiocesan Pastoral Center April 25 for a pre-synod listening session with Archbishop Thomas Wenski. The event was organized by the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry along with the Office of Schools so that youths could participate in the upcoming Synod on Youth in Rome on a local level.

Photographer: BLANCA MORALES | FC

More than 70 students from Catholic high schools gathered at the archdiocesan Pastoral Center April 25 for a pre-synod listening session with Archbishop Thomas Wenski. The event was organized by the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry along with the Office of Schools so that youths could participate in the upcoming Synod on Youth in Rome on a local level.


Comments from readers

James - 05/02/2018 03:59 PM
Blessings to all. The youth are leaving because in general Society is evil and tries to pull them away. Continue to pray please.

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