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06 February 2013

Capuchin Journey: Winter 2013

Check out the latest edition of The Capuchin Journey here
For a taste of what's inside, here is my reflection on my ministry to the young people of Southie:


            Class does not begin for another half an hour, yet shortly after I unlock the door at 4:00 pm, a trickle of students begins, one or two at a time, until immediately before class (and of course, after we’re supposed to begin), they arrive in groups of five or six.  I have an attendance sheet in my hand, trying to desperately to put the names and faces of my sixty-five seventh grade students together.  I can usually get about half on the first try; the others I name only after they answer my stock question, “First letter of your name?”

And so it goes: attendance and the normal banter: “How was your week? How was school? Yes, I got your mother’s email. We can definitely pray for your grandmother.”  We open with prayer and then it’s off to the races: an hour and a half class followed by the 6:00 pm mass.  There are about seventy-five of us in the church basements: students and teachers and me.  Today we’re covering the Eucharist in class.  I mention that it’s a Mystery and explain what I mean.  “That’s why after the Consecration, the priest says, ‘The Mystery of Faith.’”  A seventh grader from across the room explodes, “Oh!  I thought he was saying ‘The Misery of Faith!”  Laughter from some (including me). 

The students break into small groups.  I move from table to table, attempting to find the happy medium between listening into what is happening and letting the small group leaders facilitate discussion without me getting involved.  At the conclusion of class, we end as we began, in prayer.  The students normally write down their intentions on small pieces of paper and put them into a “Prayer Can” (Get it, because with prayer, we can). 
           
These are my Sunday afternoons: Confirmation class at Saint Brigid and Gate of Heaven Parishes in South Boston. By the time I arrive home on Sunday evenings, I’m exhausted – and the thought of Morning Prayer at 6:30 am the next morning does not help.  But, I wouldn’t trade my ministry is South Boston for anything: with all of the talk of young people being disinterested in their Catholic faith, I find myself actively engaged in their catechesis and evangelization.  At the same time, I’m also constantly in contact with their parents, trying to help them with the million and one problems that come with raising a young person in today’s day and age. 

            There seems to be me to be something authentically and undeniably Franciscan – and specifically Capuchin – about my ministry in South Boston.  Francis possessed a deep respect for the Sacraments, believing that in them we came face to face with the Living God.  His own experiences taught him that only a distinct encounter with Christ could change someone’s life.  The earliest Capuchins traveled down from their hermitages when the people were in need: they realized that nothing could replace interaction with another Christian.  There was no better way, the Capuchins learned, to communicate Christ than through human contact. 
           
            In all of this, however, whatever I give, I cannot count what I have received back.  There’s a common adage which suggests that teachers learn as much as their student do, if not more.  For me, it’s even more than that: if I’m attempting to bring my students to Christ, they’re just as effectively (and likely more successfully) doing the same for me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah, teaching 7th graders: exhausting, indeed.

Chris J