Owen is a Junior at Bloomington Jefferson High School where he is on the Swimming team. He is also a peer minister at SJA.
Recently, a friend came to me for advice. She knew I was a peer minister, and her question was about God. She told me that recently she was struggling with her belief in God and Heaven. It was even to the point where she had spent nights up late worrying about it. What she asked me was simple, yet profound.
“How are you able to be secure about your belief in God?”
In complete honesty, I was stumped for a while. I’ve known her for a very long time, and know faith is very important to her. I knew that this question was coming from a deep place in her heart, and I respected that. I told her that I would get back to her about it and mused over the question until that night. Why was I secure in my belief? What kept God and I connected even through the hard times?
My answer came to me during swim practice. I was in the middle of an extremely hard set with sections only a week and a half away. My Coach told me that his goal for me was to keep my time for that lap under thirty seconds. I pushed myself and with a newfound strength I made it down and back in twenty-nine seconds. That’s when I found my answer.
Faith is putting your trust in something. Faith is believing in what you hold dear to your heart. You can plant a seed and water it… but you have to let it grow.
Why does it grow? It grows because it can. That seed pushes out of the ground by sheer force of will. That was the answer.
I pushed through and broke the thirty second mark during swim practice, due to my faith in myself and my own willpower.
I quickly messaged her once I got home from practice. I told her what I had realized. My belief in God is strong because I want it to be. I love God because I want to love them. I put my trust in God. I put my faith in her. I put my faith in the good people of this world. And I know, deep down in my heart, that there will be a place for them. They fill our hearts, our minds, and our souls with love and warmth.
Heaven is real because I know it must exist. It has to exist. It must exist for our young servicemen and women who died for our right to live. It must exist for the ones who fight for peace and equality.
I see God all around me. During one of our weekly Minnesota Blizzards, the amount of students helping push each other’s cars out in the parking lot was astounding. At one point, two friends and I were all scraping off another friends car because they did not have a scraper. There is something powerful in the goodness of people. That power comes from God. The fire in a person's eyes as they push for the wellbeing of others is bright.
That fire keeps me going.
That fire keeps me believing.
Allie is a Senior at Henry Sibley High School. She's been a peer minister at Saint Joan of Arc for two years.
People always say how they want to live life to the fullest. But, what does it actually mean to live life to the fullest?
I believe it all stems from our relationships with one another. To me, living life to the fullest does not mean going on lavish vacations and going to the most expensive restaurants in town. Yes, going on trips can bring you meaning, but a lot of the time that meaning comes from something that you would not always expect; it comes from the people you are with and the lessons that you have learned. Living life to the fullest is a creation of meaningful relationships that help you grow as a person.
I feel like I am living life to the fullest when I am connecting with family on a long hike in Glacier Park. While hiking, you are surrounded by beauty and are away from all the superficial things that fill our lives today. It is almost primal with just food, water and human connection to sustain you. No technology, instant gratification, or sharing for the [Insta] gram.
It can be a hard balance between living everyday like it is your last and planning for the future. I think we need to live as if every day is our last day because our relationships will naturally grow stronger, and with stronger relationships we gain more meaning in life.
As a teenager surrounded by social media and all the hubbub that goes along with it, I see first-hand how people are creating faux relationships and building profiles of the lives they would like to live instead of putting the technology aside and living a true, meaningful life.
Ghandi said “live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
My challenge to you is to live with an exuberance for life and invest in relationships that bring you joy. Instead of letting the inconsequential things get you down, like a bad test or unnecessary drama, go appreciate what you have.
Bridgid is a Tenth Grader at Hopkins High School. She's been a peer minister at Saint Joan of Arc for the past two years.
I know this is an issue that’s been talked about a lot in our church right now, but something that’s been on my mind recently is the reaction of our community to Saint Joan’s and the activities we do and people we invite to our church.
Several weeks ago, the tenth grade class went to a Buddhist Vihara. We received a lot of negative comments on social media for that, saying that we were “Inviting Satan into our lives” and that this was “sacrilegious”. Saint Joan’s decided to take the post down, which, although I understand it was for protecting the safety of minors, felt like we were giving in to what the other people had said.
It shocked me so much that other Catholics were being so cruel. It wasn’t just people around Minnesota and our area; it was people from all over the country and the world. I think it’s really uncharacteristic of us to preach about loving your neighbor as yourself and then go out and say things like that.
Since I am going through confirmation right now, I’ve been paying attention to our [Catholic] community and that has really disillusioned me. However I am very proud of the way that Saint Joan of Arc has handled this situation, as well as the situation with pre-Mass speakers that also received a lot of criticism around the same time.
I think it is our duty as Catholics to show the world another side that is welcoming and open-minded. This experience has really opened my mind and helped me recognize the privilege that we have in regards to our religion. It was shocking to see people angry at us for something that we thought was right. There are many other people who this happens to daily, and I am only now beginning to realize that.
One of the reasons I love this church so much is that even in our mission statement, we welcome you wherever you are on your journey, I can see the amount of love that we have as a parish. That is something that I am proud to belong to.
Last month our 10th grade class visited a Buddhist Vihara as a part of their faith formation curriculum. During the course of the year, these teens get to explore questions of world religions, learn about different faith traditions, and meet folks from different spiritual backgrounds. This includes opportunities to visit different houses of prayer, and meet the people who make those spaces their spiritual home.
We believe this offers teens a chance to deepen their understanding of their Catholic faith, in light of diverse religious traditions.
After their visit to the Buddhist Vihara, a post about this experience on Facebook received dozens of negative comments. After learning about the online reaction, our 10th graders engaged in a powerful, respectful conversation about why it’s important to them to have the opportunity to learn about other faith traditions.
Of their own volition, they composed a response to their online critics with the hope of sharing it.
Here is what they wrote:
“Last week our class visited a Buddhist Vihara. Our post [on Facebook] received much negative feedback. As the tenth grade class, we would like to say we’re grateful for the opportunity we had to explore another religion, and learn their perspective. We ask you to be open-minded and compassionate. Thank you for supporting us wherever we are on our journey.”
As the staff and volunteers who work with these young people, we are so incredibly proud of their thoughtfulness and willingness to engage new ideas. Our Catholic faith tradition calls us to love our neighbor, and Pope Francis has encouraged a “culture of encounter.” In recognizing the diversity and beauty in faith traditions from around the world, our teens seek opportunities to learn and grow. We see the future of the Church in their passion, spirit, and commitment to see God in all of creation.
They are our future, and our future is bright.
Star Tribune 2/5: http://www.startribune.com/pope-francis-to-hold-historic-mass-on-arabian-peninsula/505342182/
Star Tribune 2/4: http://www.startribune.com/pope-seeks-dialogue-on-first-papal-trip-to-arabian-peninsula/505268262/
Tom is a junior at Open World Learning in Saint Paul. He is involved in our parish as a peer minister and has participated in numerous service opportunities both at Saint Joan of Arc and in his community.
IS 42: 1-4; 6-7
Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street. a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.
My name is Tom and I am a junior at Open World Learning in Saint Paul. Part of this week's reading was the quote “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit.” This really speaks to me, especially the servant part.
Service is a really big part of my life and one of the reasons I decided to be confirmed this past year. I really enjoy that the Catholic Church makes a commitment to service, and that Saint Joan’s gives so many opportunities to serve the community. Whether it is helping out with soup kitchens or sleeping outside on the street, Saint Joan’s has given me many experiences serving people I wouldn’t have otherwise had.
This past summer I went on a service trip to Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota. This trip had a big impact on me, and it reinforced my value of service and influenced my decision to be a peer minister. Working all day and spending time in community with people that believed in God just felt right.
I made many connections at Pine Ridge that I still carry today. I always enjoy talking and working alongside with the people I serve. I think doing something for someone is good, but getting to know them and their story makes it that much more meaningful and valuable. I do a camp every year called Urban Cross, and we go around my neighborhood doing projects for those that are unable to do it themselves. I have repainted fences, reinforced foundation, torn down sheds, and weeded more plants then a jungle contains.
I have been on many service trips, both within my community and away from it. Each one has impacted me in a positive way, and has made me a more complete person. I would recommend that everyone does a form of service, no matter how big or how small. We are all privileged, and it is part of being Catholic, and honestly just a good person, to serve those less fortunate than you.
So my challenge to you is find an act of service, no matter how big or how small, and do it within the next month. You do not know how big of an impact it will make on the person, and it will leave you feeling both fulfilled and ready to serve more. I am Tom, and I am a servant to those in need.
Daniluz is a junior at Minnetonka High School. She is involved in our parish as a peer minister and with our Sister Parish ministry. She recently went with the delegation to Guatemala to visit our Sister Parish.
The first time I heard this reading, I thought it was inspiring how a poor woman could find the courage to give all that she had to a God she believed in. Jesus says that her gift was more valuable than the wealth the rich people offered to the treasury. This reading resonated with me and was a light bulb moment as it made me think back to this last summer when I went on a delegation trip with Sister Parish to Guatemala.
We experienced many things from Guatemala’s culture and reality, but one of the things that was the most powerful for me was going to Tierra Nueva Dos and visiting with residents there. TN2 is a a small community in the farthest district of the metro area of Guatemala City, it was labeled as uninhabitable by the government and yet people still made a living there on the land. Sister Parish has more than 20 year relationship with the people of TN2 and I had the chance to be part of that relationship on the trip. I got to stay with different families who would offer their best bedrooms and lavish dishes in order to make me feel welcomed in the community. They even created low sodium dishes for me when I was sick for a short time as a way to help me recover.
One of the people I got to know really well was a girl around my age named Jakelhin who was part of the first family I stayed with. She told me about her school life and taught me how to play a game she called “Sticks” and another one named “Dos” which was suspiciously close to another game “Uno” which I am used to playing here in the States. She made me feel welcomed in a different environment from my own and gladly shared stories of her life with me shrinking the distance between us and making it seem like we were not strangers anymore, but long awaited friends. What she offered me was so personal glimpses of her own life. That made me admire how much trust she put into me understanding who she is and how special it was for me to make a connection like that with a person I got to know within the 10 days I stayed in Guatemala.
Jesus says to his disciples that the poor widow’s contribution to the treasury is more than the other contributors because “she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had. Her whole livelihood.”, Jakelhin offered her home, food, and whatever she and her family could offer to make our stay more hospitable. The greatest gift the family gave was their passion to share their culture and what little they had for us which was not just valuable, but precious.
Thinking about who I am, I would say I am someone who is lucky enough to have a friend like Jakelhin who will cheer for me when I am in the final stages of playing Ninja with the Guatemalan Youth Group and who is my support when I feel that reality is suffocating me. She helped establish the person I am and helps drive me to the person I want to be.
In the end, I want you now to consider the best gift you have ever received from a friend. I also hope to leave you with the thought of what act of kindness you can do to strengthen the relationships you hold dear to your heart.
Maggie H., 16
Maggie has been to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation twice to volunteer with Remember, an organization lending a hand to those on the Reservation. Remember sees their role as friends and neighbors in community with the Oglala Lakota people of Pine Ridge Reservation, and call Pine Ridge home, just as they do. Maggie spoke pre-Mass on welcome back Sunday at St. Joan of Arc about her experience.
Hi, my name is Maggie H. and I’ve been attending St Joan since I was baptized in 2002. I first became a delegate to Pine Ridge last year. I did this ignorant of what I was going to be doing and learning, but needing service hours for my school, I signed up.
The most powerful experience this year was when we visited the wounded knee massacre site, we met a woman who was visiting the grave of her grandfather: Chief Spotted Elk, or as the American generals renamed him- chief Bigfoot. She told us all about how the American soldiers renamed him Chief Bigfoot to make fun of the fact that he had slightly larger feet than them. They would make him wear clown shoes and jeer at him. She reminded us that we are the next generation in this country, and that we need to keep spreading the knowledge of the atrocities that this country’s government has committed against the native people.
The thing I love the most about going to pine ridge is the community. The people there are always kind and accepting regardless of their history and present state of life. The biggest challenge for me is always seeing the state of life they’re enduring currently and knowing it’s because of our government. We praise ourselves on our country’s motto being life liberty and justice for all, but all it takes is one look at the Native American reservations, one look at the hundreds of treaties we’ve made and then broken, one look at the history between settlers and the natives, to see how awful out government has and continues to treat these people.
Every time I go to Pine Ridge, I’m always reminded of how important knowledge is, and how important it is to be well informed as I am part of the next generation and there are a lot of mistakes we need to fix.
The thing I love most about the community at St Joan’s is how accepting, informed, and involved we are in current events.
Welcome Back/Shared Ministry Sunday
Sunday, September 9, 2018 -
9:00am to 10:00am
More correct: It’s time to talk, Youth!
Hello and welcome, whoever you are and however you got here. Beginning now, this is the official blog for Saint Joan of Arc Youth Ministry, SJAYouthMPLS for short. Thanks for making it this far.
Oh, and, we’re glad you’re here.
Our youth at SJA have amazing things to say. Our goal is to give them a platform to share their thoughts on topics they want to talk about. Their thoughts are uniquely theirs. From politics to faith, school issues to our church, this blog shares their voices with our community.