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An ex- gang member and drug dealer who turned his life around and now devotes himself to youth and community work has been recognised with an OBE in the New Year's Honours.
Chris Preddie was a drug dealer with gang ties who regularly carried a knife. His life was thrown into turmoil a few days after his sixteenth birthday when his older brother - also a gang member - was shot and killed. As the Telegraph reports, he credits a youth worker named Simon with reaching out to him and making the difference.
"I remember one of the first things he said to me was: 'Would your brother want you to be doing this?' I broke down and started crying. I thought I had been under peer pressure. When I realised that, I went back to college and then did performing arts at university. I got into youth work and started working for Crimestoppers."
The lessons for us here are...
I've always thought that youth ministry is often the poor relation in the Church, but that when it's done well, it turns heads... The Holy father seems to think that World Youth Day 2011 has some important lessons for the New Evangelisation as a whole. This will be important as we go in to the Year of Faith later this year.
Benedict XVI sent a message to the Taizè Community on the occasion of the European Meeting, organized every year by the community for the last day of the year, held for the first time in Berlin, from tomorrow until January 1st, at the invitation of the Catholic and Protestant Churches and the City of Berlin.
«While you are meeting in Berlin with thousands of young people from across Europe and other continents, to seek together with the brothers of the Taizè Community to deepen the wellsprings of faith, his Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI joins you in prayer and encourages you to open pathways of confidence throughout the world», reads the message published on the community's website.
"You know that faith is not blind naiveté", the Pope adds. "Freeing you from the bondage of fear, this trust, drawn from your faith in Christ and in the life of his Holy Spirit in your hearts, makes you more forward-looking and willing to address the many challenges and difficulties that the men and women of today have to face."
Messages were sent to the Community by, among others, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, German President Christian Wulff, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, Martin Junge, that of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, Setri Nyomi, and of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Olav Fykse-Tveit.
According to a few rather stupid theories, 2012 will see the end of the world. I believe one of the more credible theories has it as December 21st, to be more precise.
Although this is clearly a load of [insert word here] a lot of young people are going to be genuinely worried by it. Make no mistake, as well as Flame, the Olympics, prep for Rio 2013 and a few other things, your to do list in 2012 will also include persuading a load of young people that the world in fact isn't about to end!
There are a few ways to go about this. Personally, I favour two. the first is to remind people that the New Testament tells us that 'we do not know the day or the hour.' When Jesus said this, he wasn't trying to set us a puzzle - he was trying to tell us to chill out and concentrate on living a good life.
The second tactic I employ is to remind them just how many stupid end of the world prophecies there have been over the years. Highlights in my recent memory include the Nostradamus' prophecy that it would all end on July 4th 1999, the 'Bible Code' prophecy that the Antichrist would come along and lay the smack down in 2009, and, of course, who could forget the uber-nutty Harold Camping and his prediction that May 21st 2011 would be the day it all came to an end.
I like to remind young people how worried they got at the last silly apocalypse theory, and how quickly they forgot about it afterwards. It gives them a little perspective.
I really think that these nutty theories do damage. People raise them out of interest, or in some cases to make money, and it might seem like a harmless sideline until you consider the genuine panic that some people go through for them.
[image hotlinked from the Catholic Youth Ministry Blog]
The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged the public not to give up on young people following the "horrific" scenes of rioting youths during the summer.
In his new year message, Dr Rowan Williams said there was a "national habit of being suspicious and hostile" toward groups of young people.
Those involved in the disturbances had been a minority, Dr Williams said.
Charities' work with youngsters showed "the gifts they can offer... when they feel safe and loved", he added.
"Quite a lot of the images we're likely to...
The awesome people at MYMission have posted their top ten sayings of 2011. Check it out, it's brilliant!
There are sayings that seem to crop up every so often in youth ministry, like 'I'm tired' for instance. Youth workers can be quite predictable at times!!
CatholicYouthMinistry.com has a great article about prayer. One of the Lifeteen missionaries talks about his prayer life and about his attitude to prayer. It's well worth taking a few minutes to read, as it gives some valuable insights.
Personally, one of my new year's resolutions is going to be giving my prayer life a bit of a boost. I do pray, but it's sporadic. I'm nowhere near as disciplined as I should be.
Prayer is individual. It is an expression of our relationship with God, and since that's going to be different for each person, so is each person's prayer life. Two bits of advice I always give people are firstly to find something that really works for them and secondly not to confuse quantity (in terms of time, that is) with quality. A priest I know well always takes issue with people who say that they pray the Rosary because 'it's a healthy spiritual practice, isn't it?' As for me, I always take issue with people who tell you about their prayer life in a quantity of time. I know people who believe that they are close to God because they pray for half an hour each morning, and that they'll get closer still if they can up that to an hour.
In both cases, they miss the point. We need to break free of the Catholic notion that prayer is a sort of piggy bank into which we can put credits by doing things that we really don't want to do. It's not. Prayer is how we get closer to the person who loves us and knows us better than anybody else. Prayer should recharge us and fill us with God's love. As another priest I know well says, we need to shake off the idea that we can do anything for God!
I am a big believer in the school of prayer idea. It's worth trying different forms of prayer to see what really works for us. Eventually, we'll find something that really fills us with the love of God!
According to CNS, the introduction of the revised translation of the Roman Missal topped the Catholic news stories of 2011.
In the UK at least, 2010 was probably dominated by the September Papal Visit, and rightly so too. The introduction of the new Missal was almost certainly more turbulent than the Pope's visit, but as news events go, it was probably as big.
I went to Mass in my parents' parish on the fourth Sunday of Advent and it was a little worrying to hear a lady behing me who got every single response wrong. Each time I heard her responding to 'the Lord be with you' (or whatever), she responded with 'and also with you.' I concluded that she was either trying to make a point or she wasn't a regular at Mass. I tried hard not to show my frustration in case it was the latter - if she was returning after a hiatus, I didn't want to make her feel awkward and unwelcome.
Now that the revised translation has been in play for a while - 3 months in the UK, at least 3 weeks elsewhere - it would be interesting to hear how your young people are taking to it. Use the combox below...
[image hotlinked from Romanmissal.org.uk]
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is inviting children to a missionary spirit, encouraging them to tell their friends that they have found a great Friend in Jesus.
This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received a delegation of children from Italian Catholic Action, with whom he exchanged Christmas greetings.The Holy Father thanked the group for their visit, then went on to remark on a theme they have been studying this year, the invitation made to Bartimaeus in the Bible: "Arise, He is calling."
This call, the Pontiff explained, "has already been repeated often in your lives, and it is repeated again today. The first call was in the gift of life. Always be attentive to this great gift, appreciate it and be...
VATICAN CITY - When young people recognize the dignity and beauty of every human life, including their own, and are supported in their natural desire to make the world a better place, they become agents of justice and peace in the world, Pope Benedict XVI said.
Peace and justice are built on "a profound respect for every human being and helping others to live a life consonant with this supreme dignity," the Pope said in his message for the World Day of Peace 2012.
The Catholic Church celebrates World Peace Day Jan. 1. The Pope's message for the occasion was released Dec. 16 at the Vatican and sent, through Vatican ambassadors, to the leaders of nations around the world.The theme the Pope chose for the 2012 celebration was "Educating Young People in Justice and Peace."
He asked parents and teachers to be more attentive to the hopes and fears of young people today and to their search for true values, and he asked governments to put more resources into education and job creation.
And the Pope asked young people themselves to...
Slant33.com has a great piece about how young youth workers can gain credibility in churches. Experts, including Lars Rood, chip in with their answers. Have a look.
I have known of more than a few projects where youth workers have had significant problems being accepted in parishes. This applies to volunteers and pros alike. Sometimes manifests itself as apathy and sometimes with obstacles actively being placed in a youth workers way.
In my experience, there will always be some people in parishes that just don't get youth ministry. Either they refuse to acknowledge the existence of young people or they think that youth ministry involves putting them through confirmation, giving them a list of Mass times and then whining when they don't turn up. Some people will just never get it, and the most we can hope of those people is that the parish priest doesn't allow them to be a pain. Usually, he will provide just such a shield.
But then, there are the other 80% of the parish. They are there to be convinced. I work on the principle that if you communicate well with people, be friendly and produce good youth ministry, then people will come around. Ultimately, if they see young people inspired by your work and involved in the life of the parish then they'll be receptive.
I think there's more to it than that though. A lot of the parish projects that fail, do so because there isn't strong line management of the youth worker. A strong line manager is needed because an inexperienced worker needs a shield between them and the rest of the parish community in some respects. Some parishioners will always think that once a youth worker is hired, he/ she will sort out every single problem and concern to do with anybody under 25. And singlehandedly too. The line manager needs to prioritise and allocate tasks and then keep the worker on track. He/ she also needs to take the demands of the parish and explain to them what the worker is doing with their 37 hours a week and why they can't possibly do any more at the present time.
There are other factors too... the worker needs to build up as many relationships with key parishioners too. It's also important that the parish knows what the youth group are doing. Isolated groups create suspicion.
All other thoughts welcome...
[image hotlinked from Flickr user Wootang01]
I've just been reading an interesting piece about youth ministry networks i.e. support groups and opportunities to get together. The article describes Three Ways They Suck, and Three Ways They're Awesome, noting that while whining, peddling and comparing can torpedo them, they can be a great place for encouragement, equipping and collaboration.
I've got a lot of experience of youth ministry networks: I've done the Chaplains' conferences, both locally and nationally and when I worked in youth centres I helped to set up the national Assistant Directors' group and was even lucky enough to run the youth centres conference (always an annual highlight) in 2007. Networking is definitely something I believe in, but it's also something that can quickly degenerate into something less than productive.
Personally, I think that conferences and meetings need to be resource-based. Spiritual input is great and all, but we can get it from other places. What we can't do in other places though, is talk about needs and ideas. I always feel a bit cheated if I don't go away from a Chaplains day, for instance, with a load of ideas I can use right away.
I also think it's nice to catch up with people, but we need to make sure that get-togethers don't just become a cliquey little group hug. We need to be welcoming to new people and also to stay focused on equipping our work.
Okay... I'll stop sharing my thoughts there, and solicit yours. What groups work for you? What don't? What do you want to take away with you from a networking meeting?
[image mine, youth centres conference 2007]
Josh from MoreThanDodgeball.com shares some thoughts and tips on how to write a good talk for young people...
[image hotlinked from Flickr user justinplambert]
Today we have a guest post from the St. Francis Mission, which serves the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, USA. They have a youth programme there in conjunction with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. I have always really admired JVC, and they seem to be providing young adults with some amazing opportunities in this project. You can find out more by visiting their website, and they're also on Facebook too. Here's the guest post...
Odd hours. New challenges. Roommates. No, I'm not still in school, but I am learning each and everyday. How can I not? I work in a foreign land right in the middle of the country where I've grown up. Each day is a new experience. Each day, my eyes open a little more. Each day, I realize more and more who I am.
I am a second year Jesuit Volunteer (JV). I work on the Rosebud Reservation in south-central South Dakota at the St. Francis Mission, a Jesuit Mission that was founded in the late 1880s. This is a place where...
There is a lot in the news at the moment about physics, higgs bosons, hadron colliders and all kinds of other stuff that I'm not even going to pretend to understand. I don't have anything against science at all. In fact, I think it's fascinating. In an odd way, I also think there is something quite spiritual about theoretical physics, even if more of those who practice it seem utterly closed off to the higher meanings of it all. They will go to the ends of the earth to figure out how something happens, but if you ask them why something happens - in the philosophical sense that is - they don't think it has any validity at all.
Andrew M Brown, in a Guardian blog post, argues that the recent news about the discovery of the so called God particle doesn't actually tell us that much about the big guy at all. It was a useful handle for generating public interest (and funding!) but it doesn't really have any philosophical metaphysical value, and it was never likely to.
My reason for posting this on a youth ministry site is because it seems to me that a lot of young people these days seem to have a sense that science is set against faith and that advances in science will ultimately render faith obsolete. The challenge for youth ministry is to distinguish in the minds of young people between those efforts which explain how the universe works, and those which attempt to ask whether there is a purpose to it all, and what that might be.
A lot of people - including the Pope - seem to think that we are losing a sense of the transcendent these days. We are looking at what is around us and taking it on face value, forgetting to ask the deeper questions. How, I wonder, can we engender that search for the deeper meaning in young people?
[Graphic showing traces of collision of particles at Cern. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images. Hotlinked from the Guardian]
Yes, a teacher in the US has been suspended for writing 'STUPID' in permanent marker on a student's forehead!
I just read this via the Youth Culture Report (that's where we've hotlinked this image from, but here's the full article) and couldn't quite believe it.
It's easy to laugh at this - I mean at the situation, not the student - and it will probably be a story that's told with a smile in years to come, but actually, it's appalling. The teacher deserves everything that's coming to him. Not just because it's quite obviously something you're going to get into trouble for, and not just because it's assault, but for the simple reason that those of us who work with young people are in the business of building them up and affirming them. Not knocking them down. There are times when we have to tell them off, sanction them, or even send them packing, but we always do those things with charity; we always do them when every lesser option has been exhausted, and we always do them for the good of the young people themselves and their peers.
As an old boss of mine once said, if we don't basically like young people, we're in the wrong game.
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