Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 8, 2004
Oblates open hearts to God
Assumption Parish invites youth team to give retreats, seminars for students
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
If children are not coming to church on Sunday, why not take the church to them during the week?
Father Clem Gauthier, pastor of Assumption Parish, decided that's what he would do when he noticed that 80 per cent of children in schools do not attend Sunday Mass.
Gauthier has seen a healthy trend in his own parish with an influx of younger families, but he thought about the potential to have many more.
When he decided to specifically reach out to the parish youth, he discovered the Oblates' youth ministry team was already doing something similar.
Where are the children?
"I have long been thinking about doing something in the schools because for a lot of them, the school is their church," Gauthier said. "I thought we should take the church to the school if the kids can't come on Sunday."
When Gauthier learned of the Oblate team of Fathers Mark Blom and Mike Dechant, they formed an agreement with St. Kevin (Junior High) School where the Oblates would come to the school and speak to the students about the joy of a deep faith.
They soon realized there was much more they could do.
"We also thought that if we want to continue something at St. Kevin, then we would have to go to the Grade 6s in the feeder elementary schools, like St. Brendan and St. James," Gauthier said.
"We will see if this works. I feel we have to do something because there are hundreds of good kids and we just are not connecting."
Students at St. Kevin were involved in lively skits and reflective discussions during October as a means to show them a life of Christ. A few of the Grade 8s and 9s were put into leadership teams, whose task was to convey to the elementary school students what they had learned. Several youth retreats were held at Assumption and St. Michael-Resurrection parishes last month.
The purpose was to prepare the children for a healthy religious life while in junior high - the point which has been regarded as where many youth begin to disregard Church teachings.
Bob Krzak, principal at St. Kevin, was pleased with the reaction of the students.
"I thought it was extremely positive. I think the kids were powerfully moved by the nature and content of the retreats themselves. It was a special month. The Oblate team is an excellent resource for teachers in and out of the classroom," he said.
The whole process was to encourage the students to understand, at a deeper level, their relationship with God and how their faith is in response to God.
"The presence of the Oblates at St. Kevin allowed us to stop and reflect on our faith and the opportunity for it to grow. If it influenced even a small group of students, then we have reached some success. The more the better, obviously."
Gauthier has been pastor of Assumption for more than three years. In that time, he has noticed a change towards a more balanced congregation, as seniors sell their homes to younger families.
"We have toddlers and pre-schoolers now. At the 10 a.m. Mass on Sunday, we have at least 40 children we send down for the Liturgy of the Word. There are another dozen for the noon Mass. That's more than 50 children, where there used to be none," he said.
Last year, Assumption prepared 25 youth for First Communion and the same number for first Reconciliation. There were 15 for Confirmation.
"There are a lot of youth, so I think it is worthwhile to follow through with this," Gauthier said.
They want the truth
"The young students are attentive and they ask earnest questions. They want to know the truth. They want to know where they can fit in. But I find when they leave Grade 6 and enter junior high, it is sort of the end, for a long time. Maybe it's the peer pressure."
The youth retreats included all five Sundays in October at the noon Mass at Assumption Parish. The Oblates worked several youth and young adults in the parish into their music ministry.
The hope is to follow up with two youth Masses a month. They would participate by being greeters and ushers, take up the collection, be involved with the music and serve at the altar.
Gauthier wants them involved in all ministries normally performed by adults. He admits there were times he would like to have seen more kids attending the Masses. He remains optimistic.
"It will take some work, but the good will is there. When they come they have so much energy. We have to have a lot of respect for them.
"We can be so negative when we see children of that age, as if we were never that young once," he said.
"We have a plan and I pray that this thrust will carry us through."
Letter to the Editor - 11/22/04
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