Former school teacher Lillian Conti is set to release a new edition of Where Is God? Teens Want to Know! The book came out of one of Conti’s assignments for her Grade 11 religion class. Photos courtesy Lillian Conti

Teacher/author lights path to spiritual discovery

  • May 11, 2022

An assignment for Lillian Conti’s Grade 11 religious classes laid the foundation for a book that has drawn much praise in Catholic teaching circles and is now set for the launch of an updated edition.

“Throughout the whole year I would ask my students to pretend God was here in front of them,” said Conti, who had published poems and a short story before retiring from teaching more than six years ago. “I would ask them to write a letter to Him with some questions about the world that they would want to know.

“Out of those questions, I started writing little by little by responding to those questions with answers the best I could. I asked for God to spiritually guide me.”

This set the wheels in motion for Where Is God? Teens Want to Know!, which is expected to launch in paperback next month.

The first version of the Woodbridge, Ont., resident’s literary labour of love was released in August 2018.

Where Is God? Teens Want to Know! stars a spiritually curious teenage girl named Elizabeth who gains a deeper understanding of the mysteries and tenets of Catholic Christianity through a relaxed and down-to-earth email correspondence with a mysterious figure named Philip over one spiritual calendar year.

Each chapter of the book is devoted to Philip and Elizabeth delving into one of the spiritual questions on her mind and heart. Some of the questions explored are if God truly exists, why there are different kinds of angels, what is the origin of evil and what is prayer.

A new foreword was crafted by the mother of five and grandmother of nine for this second edition, which addresses how the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world over the past two years.

“I stated that during the pandemic that the power of God was being doubted and questions were being asked such as, why is He sending us this pandemic?’ I had to switch that thought. It was not God who sent it, but it was creation since the very beginning who succumbed to sin.”

Religious studies faculty members for both the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) and York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) — Conti worked with both boards during her four-decade teaching career — were asked to appraise the book.

Michael Way Skinner, the longtime religion coordinator of YCDSB before his retirement at the end of the 2020-21 school year, offered praise for Conti’s “wonderful undertaking and creative vision” and wrote that “the concept for the book is engaging and could be a valuable resource.”

The book goes beyond just reaching students, said Conti.

“While the book is certainly good for young people to read on their own, it is also really good for teachers,” said Conti. “Every chapter is full of group activities and classroom-ready lessons.”

Art projects and small group discussion materials are among the interactive elements included at the end of each chapter.

Conti beamed about the cover photo, a picture depicting her daughter Sarah years ago wandering through the Rocky Mountains near Jasper, Alta. This image symbolizes Elizabeth’s internal trek to seek the truth about God and the purpose of life.

Conti said secondary schools in the YCDSB, TCDSB and Ottawa Catholic School Board have committed to ordering print copies of Where Is God? Teens Want to Know! to incorporate it into the 2022-23 academic calendar.

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.