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Speaking Out: Getting involved is a group effort

By  Emma Dias, Youth Speak News
  • January 15, 2020

The Catholic youth are the future leaders of the Catholic community, but how do we get youth involved? At some parishes that may be a problem, but not at St. Timothy’s Catholic Church in north Toronto. 

I have recently joined the Youth Group and although I had a few worries about fitting in at the beginning, I am glad I did. 

The group, which includes more than 30 male and female members from Grades 8-12, instantly welcomed me with open arms. We gather each Sunday from 6-8 p.m. and each session begins and ends in song and prayer. 

For practical purposes, we are split into smaller groups, each with a leader. For my group, that is Arlene Salazar.

“I chose to become a youth group leader at St. Tim’s because I thought it would be a good opportunity to gain experience, since I am currently in university studying to become a youth minister in the future, plus it’s a great way to get involved in the parish, and get to know more people while contributing to the community,” she said.

At St. Tim’s, all the leaders are poised to ensure there is a positive response to Youth Group, knowing that we are growing up in a society where too many people are drifting away from their religious beliefs. 

“Ultimately, I want these teens to know that aside from their biological family, they have a spiritual family too,” says Salazar. “One they can count on, confide in, share a love for Christ and grow in fellowship with. Especially in a world that continues to grow more and more secular, I think it’s really important for these teens to know who Jesus is and spread Jesus’ teachings.”

During the Christmas season, our group goal was to come up with an initiative that would put words into action. 

Ultimately, that goal — which we’re following up in the new year — is contributing to a food package for the homeless, whether it be bread or sliced meats, cheese or a juice box. 

“We want to do as Jesus taught and be compassionate, but most of all, care for the least of our brothers and sisters,” said Salazar.

Even though it’s only a few months, the bonds created within Youth Group are strong, made stronger by the fact many of the girls in the group are from my school.

Those bonds extend to Salazar, who can appreciate the atmosphere created in the room.

“I love being a part of the youth group at St. Tim’s because I get to meet all these amazing teens who have their share of gifts and talents and insights,” she said. “It’s only been three months, but slowly and surely, we’re building a family and — most importantly for the girls I spend every Sunday with  — a sisterhood.” 

Youth Group ends in June and will start again in the fall. I have already created so many meaningful memories every Sunday and am eager to make many more.

That has a lot to do with the company we keep, but also from messages we share amongst ourselves every week. 

Salazar has summed it  up quite nicely.

“I think one of the biggest takeaways from Youth Group is the fact that Jesus is always inviting us to draw near to Him,” she said. “It’s just so much easier when you journey with people your age, who share the same objective.

“Youth Group isn’t supposed to tell these teens that life will be perfect and problem-less. 

“But Youth Group is there to show these teens that life will be imperfect, problem-filled, you’ll have to carry your cross, but at the end of the day, it becomes easier because you have Jesus in your life. Because you have a spiritual family. And for my girls, because you have a sisterhood founded on the strongest thing there is — God’s love, and that will last forever.” 

I can’t wait for next Sunday.

(Dias, 14, is a Grade 9 student at St. Joseph’s Morrow Park Catholic Secondary School in Toronto.) 

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