Become a leader today

By  Jasmine Canaria, Youth Speak News
  • April 22, 2007
All my life I have struggled against traditional limitations placed on leaders in the Catholic Church. It was always taken for granted that those who wanted to pursue religious lives were restricted to the traditional roles of priests or nuns, but I know I am meant for the married life, so I never thought of becoming a religious.
As a young Catholic, I often wonder how I can get more involved in the church. I have discovered there are many religious outlets which can satisfy my desires for involvement within the church without giving up my dream of marriage and family life. There are alternative ways for youth to stay involved, to show that we can be leaders in the church, even without becoming priests or sisters.

My first experience with youth leadership within the church was my pilgrimages to World Youth Day in Toronto and Germany. These were my first experiences with young people actively involved and interested in Catholicism. It gave me hope for the future of our religious traditions, and lifted my spirits to be around such enthusiasm.

Before then, my experiences with Catholic youth were rare and often not in-depth. The churches I attended never had youth group meetings, and there was a lack of faith-related gatherings at my Catholic schools, other than class exercises or Mass.

Of course, I knew there were youth groups at other churches, but the lack of them in my experience is what made the opportunity for in-depth sharing and for Catholic youth fellowship at WYD so meaningful.

It was hard to get people involved in faith-related events during high school. I felt like people were involved more for commitment to the school or to our chaplain than for actual interest in Catholic traditions or community. Even in university there are stereotypes that students attend faith events for free food rather than to find their place within the parish community.

However, the huge global response to the Pope’s call to WYD is a great indication of youth interest in religious leadership and fellowship. Indeed, just the fact that WYD exists as a spiritual gathering is a sign that young people are important to the Catholic Church and are forging new areas in which youth can become more involved.

WYD helped me see that I am not alone in my quest for faith and fellowship. I met a lot of active young people who were proud to be strong leaders within the church, as youth group leaders, school support, chaplains and youth ministry workers. 

Young people can get too caught up in possible obstacles, such as an uninterested parish, unhelpful authority figures and lack of time, resources or energy. These obstacles can become overwhelming, but take hope from real-life role models.

Pope John Paul II said that one young role model was Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who left his mark before he died at the age of 24. He “testified that holiness is possible for everyone, and that only the revolution of charity can enkindle the hope of a better future in the hearts of people,” said the late pope. 

Make charity and leadership part of your life, too. Maybe your priest or parish doesn’t  know what’s involved in a youth group, but your ideas and enthusiasm will enlighten them. You’ll never know until you approach others.

(Canaria, 22, is a psychology major at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ont.)

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