Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 22, 2002
Teens find life at the altar
No more 'boring' Masses in Life Teen program
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Lac la Nonne
Peer pressure does not only come in a negative mode. It's working positively at St. Emile's Parish through the Life Teen program.
Life Teen in Legal, which started in January 2001, held one of its two annual retreats with 48 participants at Camp Encounter, April 12-14.
"Because of the number of youth involved, it's a very positive peer pressure. So if you don't go, it's a problem," youth minister Pat Letourneau told the WCR.
Participants come from St. Albert, Barrhead, Thorhild, Morinville, Bon Accord and Edmonton as well as Legal. Even those who did not go to church or are not Catholic have started to attend Life Teen Masses.
Letourneau says the program has brought families back to the Church through their teenagers.
Letourneau began doing youth ministry in Legal eight years ago. She was working with youth from 11 to 15. "They're very hungry for more spirituality in their lives, more truth of the Church, of Christianity."
As the youth grew older, she asked, "Where do we go now?" Some youth have been with this group for about four to five years and they were ready to move on. "I did not know where to go from there."
This youth minister heard a student from John Paul II Bible School say, "she had made a real turn around in her life at a Life Teen Mass, around the altar; that it was just an incredible experience for her."
"What's Life Teen?" Letourneau asked. Gleaning some information from the student she began to learn more about the program that originated in the States.
"I got all excited and it seemed to be the right next step for our parish. So I spoke a lot about it with our priest, found a lot of information and finally went to the States to train for the program."
Life Teen does not only nurture the youth in their spirituality. Parents can see what is going on with their kids, because the kids are the ones who live what they've learned.
"I get calls and good comments from the parents while the youth are just so much happier and seem to be more rooted in something. And we're grateful to God for that."
Every second and fourth Sunday they meet and celebrate the Life Teen Mass. After Mass they have a Life Night, where they learn about the faith and play games. They also put on two retreats a year and one separate retreat for the core group, that helps facilitate its activities.
They have outings to Christian events, service projects and all kinds of activities that help young people nurture their faith.
Shealene Nault said, "The experience for me is really extreme. It's not just a gathering for everybody to have fun and play a bunch of games. They really probe into your spiritual life and they help you grow and deal with things. I have come a long way since I've been involved."
Life Teen makes youth active participants in the Mass because they are given roles to do and are not simply spectators, Nault said.
Nault appreciates that in their Masses the priest, who normally stands behind the pulpit, comes to the congregation and talks with them in a normal conversation.
"For me, that is a more direct communication and it helps me to pay attention more."
During their retreat one activity was to reflect on the sorrowful mysteries in the life of Jesus. After that, they were given time by themselves to look into the sorrowful side of their own lives.
In the process they wrote down on a piece of paper what causes that sorrow and how to get out of it. The papers were then collected. They gathered around a bonfire, burned the papers as they gave their sorrows up to the Lord.
"That for me is just really healing," Nault said.
"It's a good time and helps us a lot in understanding our faith."
- Yvon Charrois
Amber Bilodeau, 15, agreed and said, "This experience for me has been one of healing. It just helps me grow more in my faith and helps me learn more about God."
Bilodeau learned about others and their problems. She also learned how to help them heal in different ways. "Just by praying with them, listening to what they have to say and letting things out in the open can bring healing."
Participants agree that Life Teen is a great way to bond with others and expand their support system.
Guy Ouellette, a core group member, was searching for God when he became involved with Life Teen.
"God put Life Teen on my path and I've grown so much since then. They're teaching me a lot more than I'm helping them," said Ouellette, 29, from Legal.
Ouellette specifically profits from the sharing. "If you're the person sharing a sorrowful experience for example, you heal a lot. But those who are listening learn a lot out of the sharing as well. I think that is very important."
If he had known Life Teen when he was younger, this is something that he wouldn't want to miss. "The opportunity to grow spiritually is tremendous."
Another core group member is Andrea Frechette, 20. "As a core member I wanted to share my experience with the young people. I wanted to share the things that I have experienced growing up."
Rae Ann Douglas, 14, says this ministry is good for teens. "It helps me to understand my faith better. It's a lot more fun than a regular Mass. The teachings really help you understand. They really get you into it more."
Kelly Hauptmann, 14, also finds it a lot better than a normal Mass. "Normally I find the church a little bit boring." Life Teen boosted his participation in the celebration because of the music and the unconventional way of teaching and preaching.
Yvon Charrois, 17, seconded that and said, "It's a lot better than we expected. Kids get involved in the celebration. They sing and clap. It's a good time and helps us a lot in understanding our faith."