Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 27, 2000
Young Catholics find support
By LELLA BLUMER
Special to the WCR
More than 800 young people packed Calgary's Bishop Carroll High School March 18 for a day of learning, celebrating and sharing.
Living the Eucharist: Building the Body and the Spirit, a provincial youth conference held in conjunction with Catholic Conference 2000, featured 23 different sessions, a Eucharistic celebration with Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles and Calgary Bishop Frederick Henry, drama presentations, and a concert.
Delegates came from dozens of communities across Alberta, and from as far as Whitehorse and Prelate, Sask.
The message Claire Robinson, 17, got from all that togetherness was that she wasn't alone.
"There are a lot of people out there who feel the same way I do," said the student from St. Mary's High School.
And she plans to share that message with her friends, encouraging them to become involved in future conferences.
"You can really get a lot out of it. The speakers had some important things to say, and they really can help you."
Robinson and fellow St. Mary's students Hilda Morales, Lukas Drapal and Adam Rudny were part of a panel discussion at the conference who shared their thoughts about the sessions they attended.
All four were enthusiastic.
Drapal heard David Adie, the first person to run the Great Wall of China, speak about social justice and personal peace.
"He talked about how we are always met with challenges in our lives, and how there are always walls people put up to block themselves off from others," Drapal said.
Rudny deepened his knowledge of his eastern European background through a session on symbolism in icons.
Robinson was impressed by a presentation given by four Calgary police and school resource officers about how their faith helps them in their work. The session strengthened her ability to deal with daily peer pressure.
"I learned that I have the power within myself to stand up for what I believe and help others who might be in trouble."
But the presenter who impacted all four of them the most was Pamela Stenzel. The founder of Straight Talk speaks to thousands of young people annually about responsibility, self-discipline and sex-related problems.
"It was awesome that she talked so straightforwardly about sex, because most people will evade the subject, and you know they're not comfortable with it," Morales said.
The same reaction was apparent during Stenzel's presentation to delegates at the adult conference across town.
"Kids today aren't playing the same game," Stenzel warned, adding that there are now more than 30 sexually transmitted diseases, and more than 30 per cent of them are incurable.
But the enemy is not disease or unplanned pregnancy, she said. "The enemy is a child who believes they can shake their fist and sin against the Creator of the universe and not have to pay."
It is the responsibility of parents, not of Church or school, to teach children that sex outside of the sacred bond of marriage is wrong, Stenzel added.
To those who think that rule is too strict, she says she's not interested in "a few light, fluffy years on earth teaching my kids to sin safely. I'm interested in living with my children for eternity.
"One of the biggest things we've done wrong for our children is we've bailed them out. We haven't taught them how to take responsibility - we come in, we bail, we fix, we make it okay, and we do it in the name of love.
"But someday, your kids are going to do something you can't bail them out of."
One of the "myths" that stand in the way of getting the message across, she said, is that good parenting guarantees children will make good choices.
"You can't decide for your kids, although I know you wish you could. All you can do is love them and talk to them, and let them choose."
Society owes young people an apology, she added, for the messages we have passed on. "We've handed our kids a generation who doesn't believe that married people can be faithful . . . and that's a tragedy."
At the same time, "we tell them they can't control themselves; it's hormones; they're no better than the family pet. But they can control it, they can say no, it is a choice. Thousands of kids are saying no."
Hearing that message was both important and affirming, according to the group from St. Mary's.
"Sometimes it feels like you're out there alone," Robinson remarked.
"It seems like your Church life is always being split from the rest of your life," Rudny said. Robinson finished the thought: "But it really can be relevant and can make you a better person."