Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
May God bless you and your families on this Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord! I remember growing up that my grandmother, a devout Irish Catholic, refused to take down her Christmas decorations until Epiphany Sunday. When people asked about this, she would respond spiritedly: “It’s still Christmas…so I don’t take them down ‘til Little Christmas and that’s all there is to it!” Grandma wanted to remind everyone that the joy of Jesus’ birth is far too amazing to be limited to one day. May we be filled with the joy of the Christ Child as we continue to celebrate His Nativity!
At the heart of the Christmas story is the great mystery of the Incarnation, the awesome truth that God became Man. In this extraordinary act of love, the Lord showed His profound love for children by becoming a child Himself! Ven. Fulton Sheen (one of my heroes!) said it this way: “To Mary alone was given the gift of bearing a child directly through God. But, in a lesser way, every child is born of God.” (Sheen, Three to Get Married, Ch. 17, 1951) That is to say, the Christmas story reveals to us God’s desire that you and I would see each and every person as a Child of God, and that we would see in children especially the loving hand of God. As the Psalmist so beautifully writes: “Children are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward.” (Ps. 127:3)
As our Parish’s Coordinator of Youth Ministry, I have the great privilege of seeing the face of God in the youth of our Parish every day. In our Confirmation Program, I am teaching in the “Life in Christ” pillar, which gives me the opportunity to teach about how we are to put our faith into action by living a holy life. I also direct our High School Youth Ministry, which challenges high-schoolers to continue to be witnesses of Christ in their lives, in season and out of season. Our Youth Ministry is a great place for our teens to continue to grow in their Faith after Confirmation. It is a place for teens to bond with other teens who share their Catholic Faith, a place where it is not only OK to be Catholic, but it’s COOL to be Catholic! It is a place where teens are challenged to respond to Blessed Pope John Paul II’s invitation to youth: “My dear young people, the Church needs saints!”
Youth Ministry meets every other Sunday in the Gym from 7:00-9:00PM for Youth Nights, which include faith formation, games, music, faith-sharing, and social time. Last fall, we had 29 teens spend the weekend at our Parish for our Fall Retreat on the theme: “Called to be Holy!” We have monthly special events, including Christmas Caroling, Burgers & Bowling Night, service at Hope House, and the New Jersey Catholic Youth Rally at Six Flags. We serve in Parish events such as the Confirmation Retreat and the Stations of the Cross, and have a weekly Teen Bible Study. We also CELEBRATE at our Christmas Party, our End-of-Year Cookout, and other social gatherings. I hope and pray that our Youth Ministry may be a place where teens form lifelong relationships with God, the Church, and one another!
If you have a high-schooler in your family, I invite him/her to try out our Youth Ministry! I also ask that you please offer a Hail Mary today for the youth of our Parish. They face very a challenging culture, a culture that in many ways has forgotten its Christian roots. In the Pope’s new book on Christ’s childhood (a must-read!), he writes that the Wise Men “...represent a journeying of humanity towards Christ.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, pg. 97, 2012) On this Epiphany Sunday, let us pray that all young people would imitate the Wise Men in orienting their journeys through life in Christ the Lord, and that they would find in Him the Peace that only He can give. “O Come, let us adore Him!”
In the Joy of the Child Jesus,
Ryan Cooley, Coordinator of Youth Ministry