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An Urgent Note for Our Teens and Their Parents and Guardians

Fr Rich AndreRich Andre, CSP
September 30, 2022

The 10 am Mass this past Sunday was exciting! Having our Family Religious Education Program (FREP) in person for the first time since March 2020, we had a big turnout, with great energy!

However, in talking afterwards with some of our teens, I was disappointed to hear that some haven’t decided if they’re going to participate in FREP this year, even though grades 7-12 start this weekend, October 2.

Therefore, I address the rest of this column to our teens and their parents and guardians.

Students, I understand that you probably don’t want another Sunday commitment on your schedule after 2.5 years away from in-person FREP. Maybe you think that what you learned here back in 3rd-6th grade doesn’t adequately address the complexities of your life today. Parents and guardians, I understand that you don’t want to force your teens to go to FREP or to receive the sacrament of confirmation against their will. Some of you are so busy planning the Family Retreat on October 8-10 that you’d welcome watching Mass online this weekend instead.

My friends – teens and parents alike – let me be clear: the decision of what you do this weekend may have larger implications than you imagine. Statistics show that today, many American Catholics decide to leave the faith as early as age 13. Every person’s journey is different, but after a decade in young adult ministry, I am fairly sure about 3 things:

  1. If you’re in grades 7-10 and you decide not to be involved with faith formation this year, it’s very likely that you will not return to the faith until you‘re engaged to marry or you’re raising a child… if you decide to return at all.
  2. OF COURSE what you learned in 3rd-6th grade doesn’t adequately address your life now! You know more about the complexities of the world and your own behavior, so we can now move beyond the black-and-white basics that we covered in elementary school.
  3. If there’s any place that can help teens learn about the faith, it’s the Paulist Center. Even if you’re not sure that you still identify as Catholic, we welcome all your most challenging questions! Each year, students begin FREP in the fall with a lot of skepticism but gain a more robust understanding of Catholicism by the spring. But this process will only happen if you engage with FREP and confirmation preparation.

Following the best models of pedagogy for teens, FREP for grades 7 and up is not a lecture-based model. We’ll engage with issues of the day, exploring Catholic Social Teaching. We’ll have engaging discussions, such as “How can I be sure that God exists?,” “What would Jesus post on social media?,” and “How do I unplug and find God in prayer?” We’ll watch great movies (such as The Mission) and discuss the complex moral issues they raise. We’ll explore issues of personal identity, and we’ll put our faith into action with several service projects. If you’re in the confirmation program, we’ll focus our discussions on God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, prayer, the Church, and the call to mission, as well as current events in the Church. We’ll also be looking at how to get you involved as a leader in our liturgical and faith formation ministries.

And if you feel that your questions aren’t being addressed in FREP, make an appointment with any of the 6 pastoral members on our staff. Susan, Norm, Patty, Mairead, Fr. Ed, and I love meeting with people to explore how to live out their faith in complex situations. It’s why we signed up for careers in pastoral ministry in the first place!

I can’t help but think about Jesus’ parable about the wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14). Jesus invites us all to lives of discipleship, but we each must choose whether to accept that invitation. Please join us in FREP this year, even if you have doubts about remaining Catholic. If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to Susan or me.