Deus caritas made flesh

By  Ashleigh Molloy, Catholic Register Special
  • May 29, 2008

The trees fluttered to and fro in a brisk autumn breeze. The scene at the back of St. Isaac Jogues Church was one filled with the sound of people tapping their feet to the music as the air was filled with the tantalizing smell of hamburgers and hot dogs cooking on the barbecue. Our pastor warmly greeted my family as he mixed and mingled among the crowd.

What was happening? The NET Team had descended on our parish, bringing with it a warmth that uplifted our spirits and brought a sense of community among the assembled gathering. Our pastor had sought to inject new hope into the lives of our youth. He brought the NET Team (National Evangelization Team) to assist our youth in fostering faith development. This ministry was entrusted to Matt, Rob, Richard, Malusi, Heather, Candace, Heather, Kayla. They came from different parts of Canada as a team of disciples, united and focused on the mission of empowering our youth through their ministry.

Upon hearing about this group I was excited, but wondered if the invitation would be open to my daughter Lindsey. Why would the question arise? Well, Lindsey was gifted with Down syndrome. The response I received upon posing the question to Matt Marchand was immediate.

“Lindsey would be most welcome as our program includes all youth in the parish.”

In reflecting on Lindsey’s pilgrim journey through this program from September until May, I am truly challenged in putting my thoughts into words. Lindsey, though tiny in stature, stood side by side with her peers as the important messages of our faith were conveyed through the liturgy, prayer, activities and presentations. The team gave credence to the words in 1 John 4:16 — “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” They definitely walked that talk as they brought these words to our youth and demonstrated through their actions that Jesus welcomed everyone to His gatherings.

Lindsey was validated as a full member of our parish. She was encouraged to, in the words of Mother Teresa, “Do no great things, only small things with great love.” The team will conclude its year-long mandate having demonstrated what we as parents seek for our young people: to have a sense of belonging within a faith-filled community. Lindsey’s experiences and the lessons she learned in collaboration with her peers and fellow parishioners will nurture her on life’s journey as she travels with her companion Jesus and her NET Team experiences.

I want to express our gratitude as Lindsey’s parents to Fr. John Henry, our visionary pastor, for engaging the services of the NET Youth Group. The team truly brought the title of Pope Benedict’s encyclical Dei Caritas Est (God is Love) and made it flesh. The Gospel of Matthew can best express my appreciation to the “Eight Mates”: “Well done good and faithful servants.”

(Ashleigh Molloy is director of the Transformation Education Institute in Toronto.)

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