WorkCamp 2007 and the Inspiration of Our Youth

This weekend over 700 teens, adult chaperones and contractors will embark on a week-long commitment of service to the residents of Orange through the Office of Youth Ministry's annual WorkCamp. I will visit with these participants on Tuesday — to hear confessions, celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and listen to their experiences thus far. This approaching week — of repairing roofs, building wheelchair ramps and other projects — causes me to reflect on the inspiration which this group of young adults, and indeed our youth throughout the diocese, offers to us all.

How fortunate we are to have over 15,000 high school-aged youth participating in youth ministry activities at parishes throughout the diocese. Nearly all of our 68 parishes have a coordinator of youth ministry — many of them have advanced degrees or a catechist certification, and regularly take advantage of other opportunities in order to become better equipped to serve their young people.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his recent trip to Brazil, posed a critical question to thousands of youth. He spoke to them concerning the gift of their lives. "What are you to do with it?" he asked. "How can you live it to the full?"

I see this question answered each time I am with the youth of our diocese. I am inspired over and over again as I visit parishes and schools to speak with youth, attend events like the March for Life, RALLY, the annual Scout Mass, the "Got Teens?" Conference and others; and now, WorkCamp. I see our youth living faithfully in Christ. I see them upholding the Catholic faith, reaching out their hands to those in need, making a difference in the world.

A key part of the week for our youth attending WorkCamp is the deep prayer life, confessions, daily Mass and spirituality they experience each day. Last weekend in St. Peter's Square on the feast of Corpus Christi, Pope Benedict spoke about the importance of Eucharistic adoration and how young people are embracing it more and more. Twice during the week of WorkCamp, there will be adoration for all those attending to further gaze upon Jesus Christ, really present in the Blessed Sacrament.

As our Holy Father said in his address to the young people of Brazil, this crucial question about life is also about the "here" and "now" and what we must do to give our lives meaning. Jesus focused much of His life on attention to the poor and asks us to follow His example. Pope Benedict reminds us, "Jesus assures us that God alone is good. To be open to goodness means to receive God. In this way, he invites us to see God in all things and in everything that happens, even where most people see only God's absence."

Is this not true when nearly 500 youth travel to Orange to assist with repairing and fixing homes? Truly, in a variety of ways, our youth participate in youth ministry — whether it is reading at Mass, volunteering at a soup kitchen, collecting used clothing for donations, and so many other ways, they are experiencing God's presence in their lives and following in His footsteps. They are not only cultivating relationships with their brothers and sisters in Christ but also living reflections of Christ's face. Indeed, our Holy Father added in his address to the youth of Brazil, "The Church needs you, as young people, to manifest to the world the face of Jesus Christ, visible in the Christian community."

This is not always easy. The youth of today confront enormous pressures — pressures I could not even imagine when I try to compare them with my own childhood. Today, our youth face the temptations of materialism, drugs, alcohol, pornography and physical intimacy, to name but a few. Yet by their courageous and faith-filled lives, they exhibit great hope. Next week, this inspiring group of young people will build not only ramps and walls, but solid foundations for lives committed to Jesus Christ, and to all those He came to reveal divine mercy and love, especially to the poor and the needy.

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