“Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” –St. John Paul II
I have always been inspired by St. John Paul II and his love and zeal for young people. That is why I chose him to be the patron of our youth group. Through his intercession and by God’s grace, we are celebrating the first anniversary of the beginning of the young adult group and the revival of the youth group at our Parish of St. Veronica in North Philadelphia.
When I first arrived to this mission, a little over a year ago, I was surprised that there was no youth program in our parish. For some time, the religious who serve at Saint Veronica, prayed hard about starting the youth group again and beginning a group for young adults. Finally, on Sunday the 4th of February 2018, we called all the youth and young adults to gather together after Mass to see how many were interested in being a part of this group. To be honest, we expected only a few people to show up, but when we reached the hall, to our surprise, we saw a room full of around 25 teenagers and young adults. What a joy it was to see so many youth of our parish together.
During this first “meeting” we ate pizza, played games, and got to know each other. We discussed when would be a good time to meet every week, and then ended with a prayer…and that’s when it all began. Since then every week we have had meetings with the youth and with the young adults. In the youth group we started out with about 8 youth, but now, one year later, we have 20 teenagers coming faithfully to share joy, fun, prayer, and formation together.
This past year we were able to participate in the Youth Festival and March for Life/Winterfest. We have also done some service projects such as the Nativity play together with the young adults. Even though our hall flooded right before Christmas and could not be used for several weeks, we were able to use the Church to present the play and the rectory for the dinner and recreation with the families. Many of our youth, who do not regularly go to Mass or have not yet received their sacraments have been slowly coming back to the Faith! And this is the most important aspect of any youth group: to grow in relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.
By working with the young people of today, and in particular, those in North Philadelphia, I am discovering more and more how needy they are. It is not so much a material poverty that I notice, but rather a poverty that is much worse-a spiritual poverty in which the desire for God and the desire for eternity are lost. They do not know Jesus, nor do they realize that they are called to go to heaven or to be saints. They have lost sight of these eternal realities because the things of this world are blinding them and telling them lies. But that little faith planted in them at Baptism or in a little crevice of their heart is where it all starts because, “greater is the One living inside of [us], then he who is living in the world.” We must trust that in His timing, God will water those seeds so they will grow to be big strong plants in God’s garden. The youth that we serve are not the future of the Church but they ARE the Church… now!
We must never “be evasive to the missionary adventure.” We must never tire of working to “enculturate the Gospel in the diversity of all cultures to extend the Incarnation of the World in all men, in the whole man, and in all the manifestations of man.” We must be the instruments in the hands of God, no matter how small we are, to help in this mission of bringing souls to Christ. As Saint Mother Teresa said, “give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.” The most important way we will help save these souls is by our deep prayer, suffering, and sacrifices. If Christ, the One we want to imitate, suffered greatly, died on the Cross and rose again for love of us and for our salvation, then we must also suffer, offer sacrifices, and spread the joy of the Resurrection for the salvation of souls. Let us not waste our sufferings, but unite them with our Crucified Lord who has won the victory of all humankind.
Let us ask our Heavenly Mother, our patron saints, especially St. John Paul II and St. John Bosco, for their intersession and help in this mission of raising up this generation in “overcoming evil with weapons of love.”
Sr. Mary Faithful Virgin, SSVM
Missionary in Philadelphia, USA