Does your parish do something to honor/congratulate/bless graduating high school seniors?
On May 8, 2019, I received a call from a parish wondering what gifts other parishes give to graduating high school seniors. We discussed a few ideas of which I was aware, but thought it was a good time to touch base with parish ministers to see what was currently done.
I am thankful for the Coordinators for Youth Ministry that responded to my Google Form survey.
Following is a summary of that input as received May 8 – 15.
25 parishes said YES, they do something to honor/congratulate/bless graduating high school seniors,
and 4 responded that they do not.
21 of the 25 stated they have a special blessing for the graduates at Mass,
13 at a specific Mass and
8 at every Mass on a specified weekend.
Most indicated they also have an Universal Prayer for the graduates,
some including all levels of graduates.
14 parishes have a reception,
10 offer breakfast/brunch
3 have light snacks
And one offers a dinner.
For these, 6 indicated the receptions were for the graduates and their families,
1 for graduates only and
5 were for the whole parish.
As for that question about gifts. 10 parishes do give gifts:
► Book (Bible, "How to Stay Catholic in College," Lean Into the Wind: How to Face the Future” by Fr. McKarns, prayer book)
► Prayer card
► Coffee mug with scripture quote
► Photo frame
► A cross
► A certificate
► A religious medal
► information on how to find the Newman center on their campus
(Note that a few parishes give more than one gift)
Other great ideas included:
- We have teens serve as liturgical ministers for a Mass
- We make a poster with pictures of all the graduates
- We take a group photo of the graduate and place it on the cover of a Church bulletin Any graduating teen who missed the Mass is asked to submit a senior picture to be included on the bulletin cover.
- Our parish offers three scholarships for education, materials and supplies
- Considering a retreat
- We make a bulletin insert celebrating the graduates
- We also host the Baccalaureate ceremony sponsored by the Conneaut Area Ministerial Association. Baccalaureate is the day before graduation is open to all seniors at Conneaut High School. We do have a light reception following the ceremony.
- We tell them we are proud of them
St. Thomas Aquinas school added that in addition to the Baccalaureate Mass that each Catholic School does in our diocese, they invite back those celebrating their 50th reunion to join them for Mass and a reception. They also have a blessing of the seniors at the last All School Mass of the year.
As you put the finishing on any graduation celebrations for your parish,
I hope these insights from other parishes are helpful.
Most importantly, continue to pray for these young people,
especially as they go off to college, the military, vocational training,
a gap year, or the work world.
May they be open to the Holy Spirit at work in their lives!
A big "Snow Event" is predicted for northeast Ohio and many other areas of the U.S. for this weekend. Due to this, some events are being rescheduled, changed or canceled. As I heard one teen wonder out loud, "Great, what am I going to do now?" I immediately began thinking of a myriad of options... some outdoors, some indoors.
I realized as I started listing ideas off in my head that this officially makes me an 'older' adult, but then I thought,
a. if you are a teen really looking for ideas, then here you go....
b. if you are a fellow adult who feels the same but would like to have a place to direct your kids attention without it looking like you are the cranky one listing off options, here you go:
30 Snow Ideas for Teens/Families:
1. Read a book*
2. Clean your room
3. Offer to shovel snow for neighbors (after your own driveway and sidewalk, of course)
4. Build a snowperson or two, or even snow animals
5. Make snow angels
6. Go ice-skating
7. Go sledding (and maybe take your little siblings with you)
8. Build a snow fort
9. Have a snow ball fight
10. (If permitted where you live and with supervision) have a bonfire (if you have dry wood stored somewhere)
11. Learn to make a new craft using YouTube videos
12. Cook a meal
14. Play a board game
15. Exercise or dance
16. Do your homework
17. Write thank you cards, Valentines cards, etc.
18. Create a snow day play list of music
19. Do mani-pedis, a facial or other spa treatment
20. Go on a winter hike
21. Catch snowflakes on your tongue
22. Build a house of cards
23. Watch a movie*
24. Color (yes, with crayons or pencils)
25. Pull up a karaoke app and start singing!
26. Play tic-tac-snow (draw the board in the snow, use sticks and rocks as your Xs and Os)
27. Stick the Nose on the Snowman (like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, but playing a carrot on a snow man as blindfolded)
28. Make bird feeders like you used to at camp or on kindergarten (peanut butter on pinecones, sprinkled with birdseed, tie with yarn or string and hang out on a tree)
29. Look for critter-prints ( you know, pawprints from animals and identify the animals)
30. Snow-painting (fill squeeze containers or spray bottles with water and food coloring, mix, then head outside to "paint")
If you are still board after all of these ideas, then take a nap, watch TV or play video games! OR share more ideas in the comment section below! In any event, I hope you have some fun and take time to enjoy winter.
(I'll likely be sipping on some hot chocolate by the fireplace!)
* Since I am posting this during the March For Life and as we enter the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, can I suggest looking for books and movies related to Respect for All Life and equal rights?
A few that come to mind include:
~ A Raisin in the Sun
~ Mississippi Burning
~ To Kill a Mockingbird
~ The Butler
~ The Long Walk Home
~ The Rosa Parks Story
~ Hotel Rwanda
What other books and movies follow these themes?
You can also join in the final days of the 9 Days for Life
Prayer initiative at:
Most youth ministers and high school catechists discovered years ago that teens learn better by Doing and so have gotten very creative in ways to help youth apply learnings, but we often still have time for lecturing by the adult.
A few of us have moved to sending articles/chapters/booklets home to read or video links to view prior to meeting for class or session, adapting the teaching method of "flipped classroom" into religious education. (You can learn more about this below.) This is a great way to assure there is time to respond to questions and encourage discussion (so long as the students actually do the preparation and if all the youth have access to the media needed!)
I like this explanation of Jigsaw Learning as a way of perhaps using some Flipped Model, but giving another way for the youth to dive into the content. I think many of us have used this method in concept, but perhaps not with as much organization as this video describes:
This video lays out a game plan clearly. I really like the "expert group" portion where teens help each other understand the concepts (with adult advisors assisting when needed.) Then when the teens take the extra step to TEACH, we know they learn better.
Albert Einstein once said:
“I never teach my pupils,
I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”
Can you see how the Jigsaw can provide conditions to learn?
I can envision a few ways to use this:
a. using The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth,
dividing up sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
or selecting by topic, such as:
Parts of the Mass...
Gifts of the Holy Spirit…
Fruits of the Holy Spirit…
Types of Books in the Bible....
The 7 Sacraments...
what other topics jump out for you to consider using Jigsaw?
b. having the above or YouCats for teens to look up topics that apply to the textbook you may be using for religious class
c. if using the Phlaum Weeklies, divide up sections, making sure teens have access to the teaching guide and supplementary booklets as well as Bibles and other resources to allow them to expand the information
d. even on a retreat, set aside some time for learning sessions on the theme of the retreat.
e. prior to a service/mission activity, cover Catholic Social Teachings or elements of the service project as connected to our faith.
What other ideas come to mind?
Reflection (feel free to share your responses as a Comment below)
Thanks for all you do to pass on the faith to the next generation.
We must ensure that young people are well equipped
for their special mission in the world.
-Renewing the Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry
Quick overview of a Flipped Class:
Example of watching a Flipped Classroom
“Those who know, do.
Those that understand, teach.”
A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. The conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.
Offering his guests coffee,
the professor went to the kitchen
and returned with a large pot of coffee
and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal,
some plain-looking, some expensive, and some exquisite -
elling them to help themselves to the coffee.
After all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said:
"If you noticed,
all the nice-looking, expensive cups were taken up,
leaving behind the plain and cheap ones.
While it is but normal for you to want only the best for yourselves,
that is the source of your problems and stress.
"Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee.
In most cases, it's just more expensive
and in some cases even hides what we drink.
What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup,
but you consciously went for the best cups...
and then began eyeing each other's cups.
"Now consider this:
Life is the coffee,
and the jobs, money and position in society are the cups.
They are just tools to hold and contain life,
and the type of cup we have does not define
nor change the quality of life we live.
Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup,
we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us."
God brews the coffee, not the cups . . .
enjoy your coffee.
During the Ash Wednesday 12:10 p.m. Mass homily at St. Columba Cathedral,
Bishop George V. Murry, S.J. began by sharing that the word Lent
Often springtime conjures images of cleaning out things after winter.
He then continued to talk about spiritually cleaning one's heart for a better relationship with God.
However, my mind veered off a bit to the meme seen above.
Many people on social media have been sharing this idea of physically cleaning things out
this Lent... to simplify your home but also to potentially assist those who may need things.
As a bit of a clutterbug (not quite up to the TV show "Hoarders" level, yet,
but I have the potential), this is an exhilarating and scary idea.
But, I am going to give it a try....
if not 40 large trash bags, then at least several bags and boxes.
I am also reminded of the Zelda Fitzgerald quote:
What most people need to learn in life is how to love people and use things
instead of using people and loving things.
While I do my best not to use people, I may have a tendency to love things,
as I was taught to treasure gifts from loved ones, and I place perhaps too much
emotion into items I own. Therefore, this might just make for a good Lenten practice for me,
as I will need to pray my way through it.
One prayer I will be praying is the Suscipe by St. Ignatius of Loyola
(proud of my Jesuit education):
Take Lord, and receive all my liberty,
and my entire will,
all that I have and possess.
Thou hast given all to me.
To Thee, O lord, I return it.
All is Thine,
dispose of it wholly according to Thy will.
Give me Thy love and thy grace,
for this is sufficient for me.
(As one who grew up in the "Glory and Praise" era of Church music,
I often 'hear' this prayer in the musical form,
which if you are not familiar, I would encourage you to listen:
Please pray with me,
and perhaps join in me in this process of letting go.
Maybe in the giving of material things,
my heart will also let go of hurts, disappointments, or other feelings that
impede a joy-filled relationship with God?
May I be able to clean out all things that block God's love for me,
so that I can be open to a deeper Easter joy.
May your Lenten practices do the same for you!
Whoever confers benefits will be amply enriched,
and whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
Whoever hoards grain, the people curse,
but blessings are on the head of one who distributes it!
Prior to the National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry, or NCCYM, in San Jose last month, I participated in a two-day "Youth Mental Health First Aid" training. (I am sure you will hear and see me reference this training a few times in the future!) One of the numerous ideas I noted was tis idea of a "Been There, Done That" box of index cards....
What you would do is to contact parents who have gone through some specific situation, issues or crisis,
and see if they would be open to talking with other parents from the parish or school who approach you to discuss that topic. (I'd also suggest you ask these kind, brave parents willing to discuss their situations to pray for any parent that does contact them... and perhaps pray WITH them!)
-- teens breaking curfew and how to deal with that in a healthy way
-- incarcerated youth
-- dealing with underage drinking
-- child diagnosed with a special need
-- kids who struggled through their divorce
-- custody issues
-- teens cutting school
(Start brain-storming as you reflect on questions parents ask you!
What a wonderful resource this box can be as you help connect people that support each other
and build community.)
Please be sure to keep this information confidential, but have them on hard for support.
Of course, you could keep this information on a spread sheet on your computer or tablet.
And, obviously, for anyone who needs professional help,
make that appropriate referral.
However, often, parents just need support --
someone to listen
someone who understands
and sometimes some ideas and advice.
This seemed like a great idea to share with you all as you approach Pastoral Care with youth and their families.
Let me know if you do this and how it works for you. Add any helpful tips in the comments below.
Here is a prayer from Loyola Press for Parents:
A Parent's Prayer Loving God,
You are the giver of all we possess,
the source of all of our blessings.
We thank and praise you.
Thank you for the gift of our children.
Help us to set boundaries for them,
and yet encourage them to explore.
Give us the strength and courage to treat
each day as a fresh start.
May our children come to know you, the one true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
May your Holy Spirit help them to grow
in faith, hope, and love,
so they may know peace, truth, and goodness.
May their ears hear your voice.
May their eyes see your presence in all things.
May their lips proclaim your word.
May their hearts be your dwelling place.
May their hands do works of charity.
May their feet walk in the way of Jesus Christ,
your Son and our Lord.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
have been working on a fantastic video series that we can use for FREE to help share the
elements of our Catholic Social Teachings.
The videos are brief (3 - 5 minutes each), beautiful and informative.
They have been posted on YouTube, so can be
easily shared via social media or used in classrooms/meetings.
Below, please find direct links to the first few videos,
and look for future videos (and additional resources) to be posted at:
Rights and Responsibilities
The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities--to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.
More on Rights and Responsibilities
Call to Family, Community, and Participation
The person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society -- in economics and politics, in law and policy -- directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.
More on Call to Family, Community, and Participation
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. In our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and euthanasia. The value of human life is being threatened by cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and the use of the death penalty. The intentional targeting of civilians in war or terrorist attacks is always wrong. Catholic teaching also calls on us to work to avoid war. Nations must protect the right to life by finding increasingly effective ways to prevent conflicts and resolve them by peaceful means. We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.
More on Life and Dignity of the Human Person
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
More on Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
Care for God's Creation
We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of Gods creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.
More on Care for God's Creation
We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers and sisters keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that if you want peace, work for justice.1 The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.
More on Solidarity
> The Dignity of Work and the Rights of WorkersThe economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in Gods creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected--the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.
More on Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers
Descriptions shared from http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/seven-themes-of-catholic-social-teaching.cfm - (c) USCCB
a brainstorm accompanied a thunderstorm....
(are you ready for the idea?)
Pair up young adults (in their 20s and 30s) who belong to your parish (look through your former youth ministry rosters and see who is still living in town) with senior members of the parish who need rides to Mass.
When I lived in Florida, our parish often ran general bulletin announcements for parishioners
to call the rectory if they are willing to pick up older Church members who are unable to
drive themselves. A few members of the parish Young Adult Singles Club decided to give it a try.
For one member in particular, Susan, who was in her late 20s at the time,
she was assigned to drive a nearby parishioner, Agnes.
It only meant that Susan had to leave about ten minutes earlier for Mass,
and then a few minutes longer to drive home as she paused to drop Agnes back off.
This was a great service to Agnes, as she was able to get to Church much more often.
Agnes enjoyed getting out of the house and getting to see some of her friends at Church,
and was thrilled to be able to celebrate Mass with the community.
Susan, of course, began this is a sort of service project....
you know, helping someone who needed the help.
Susan was surprised to realize that she also go things out of this arrangement:
1. a stronger commitment to going to Mass with her responsibility to Agnes
(a.k.a. strength to resist turning off the alarm and staying in bed or opting out of a Mass
for other reasons as may have been the case on a few Sunday mornings.)
2. someone to sit with at Mass (this was key because Susan really did not like going to Church alone,
and her schedule didn't always coincide with her friends' schedules, so sometimes would sit alone
prior to driving Agnes. Sometimes though, her friends would also sit with them.)
3. a new parishioner with which to form a relationship and build community.
For many months, the commitment was just the transportation to and from Mass.
However, Agnes then invited Susan to lunch a couple of times,
and they even went to see a couple of movies as their friendship grew.
After two years, Susan's job transferred her to a different state,
so she said good-bye to Agnes, but for those two years, they both supported each other
and were parish community for each other!
So, I would like to suggest that parish staffer take some time to recruit young adults to
provide this driving service for older members who may not be able to transport themselves to Mass.
Or your parish Mission.
Or the parish picnic.
Or an adult education series.
Get the idea?
If so, and you do it, I would LOVE to hear how it goes...
I do realize it can be tricky as some young adults may have schedules that could frustrate some seniors if they are unable to help on a consistent bases.... and it may take the senior time to trust the younger driver... people would need 'screened' a bit to ensure a good experience for all... but it seems like it could be well worth it.
Especially as we seem to seek ways to help young adults (especially singles) feel connected to our faith communities, and as we know some seniors can use the help.
Let us inspire our parishioners to take a step closer to Tabitha's description from Acts 9:36
"Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated means Dorcas).
She was completely occupied with good deeds and almsgiving."
by at least getting them to carpool!
A virtual retreat for dads and those who have dads
from Busted Halo (Paulist YAM) recently arrived in my emailbox.
I appreciate the subject line:
to celebrate relationships that continue to influence us as young adults.
What a creative idea for celebrating the holiday that involves more than a text, a card or a tie.
Father’s Day is this weekend and it’s time to honor dear old Dad. Fathers share helpful advice and wisdom throughout our lives (or at least they try to.) Even if we’re too busy or stubborn to listen, dads are giving us tips on how to make our lives the best they can be. This virtual retreat helps young adults and their fathers connect with those wisdom moments and one another. You can do this retreat on your own or with your dad! Live far away? E-mail Dad the link and get on the phone, Facetime, or Skype. So, in addition to a card or gift (don’t forget!) celebrate Father’s Day with your father in a unique way.
Why not take a few minutes to reflect and pray this weekend?
Let me add just one brief thought as I considered:
What piece of wisdom have you gotten from your dad?
My father died when I was 12,
but I knew that he loved his family, his community and his faith in the way he lived....
he was not only my dad, but also
usher at St. Joseph in Cuyahoga Falls
Knight of Columbus (past Grand Knight),
Marriage Encounter participant
Through the ways in which he lived these roles, he taught me (among many other things) from an early age:
Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.
(1 John 3:18)
Love is not just a word,
not just a noun,
but a verb...
and action word that has to SHOW how one feels.
Of course, he was human and not perfect,
he could have an Irish-temper and be moody as he body adjusted to shift-changes on the police force,
but what I remember most from my chidlhood are the numerous moments of LOVE.
I am so fortunate that when I pray the "Our Father" and think of God as a fatherly-figure,
I do have an image of love as displayed by my father. (I am sad for those who are unable to
think of the word father with appreciation and love due to less-than-positive experiences,
and pray that they can make a better situation for the next generation.)
I think I will now go find the Amy Grant song that comes to mind, called "Father's Eyes".
She captured my heart's desire so clearly. (I may have shared this before, but it is so fitting here today.)
Father's Eyes Lyrics:
I may not be every mom's dream for her little girl,
And my face may not grace the mind of everyone in the world.
But that's all right, as long as I can have one wish I pray:
When people look inside my life, I want to hear them say,
She's got her father's eyes,
Her father's eyes;
Eyes that find the good in things,
When good is not around;
Eyes that find the source of help,
When help just can't be found;
Eyes full of compassion,
Seeing every pain;
Knowing what you're going through
And feeling it the same.
Just like my father's eyes,
My father's eyes,
My father's eyes,
Just like my father's eyes.
And on that day when we will pay for all the deeds we have done,
Good and bad they'll all be had to see by everyone.
And when you're called to stand and tell just what you saw in me,
More than anything I know, I want your words to be,
She had her father's eyes,
Her father's eyes;
Eyes that found the good in things,
When good was not around;
Eyes that found the source of help,
When help would not be found;
Eyes full of compassion,
Seeing every pain;
Knowing what you're going through,
And feeling it the same.
Just like my father's eyes,
My father's eyes,
My father's eyes,
Just like my father's eyes.
My father's eyes,
My father's eyes,
Just like my father's eyes.
Songwriters: CHAPMAN, GARY WINTHUR
Father's Eyes lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
Here is a video of that song, if you are interested:
(And Happy Father's Day to all the dad's out there....
and to all their sons and daughters!
May we all have our Heavenly Father's Eyes,
and maybe our earthly father's eyes as well!)
Hold a post-VBS session each day for your teen volunteers --
Yes, I know this adds on time to your day after a busy morning with the kids,
and could cost some money to offer lunch (or dessert, if lunch is part of VBS) for your teens to stay around for a discussion -- but consider that this can provide some opportunities for the components of community life, prayer/worship, catechesis and evangelization time for the teens, and only take a little extra effort from you (or other youth ministry leaders.)
Suggestions for the gathering --
1. Grace before lunch (or over dessert)
2. Ask highs and lows of the morning
Option A: Scripture sharing
- You can utilize the readings of the day (http://usccb.org/calendar/index.cfm?showLit=1&action=month)
(Do simplified Lectio Divina style of proclaiming the reading, asking each person to share a word or phrase that speaks to them, ask if they are willing to share why that word or phrase, re-read the Scripture),
Option B: go deeper into the VBS theme of the day.....utilize The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth or the Catechism of the Catholic Church
4. Spontaneous prayers of petition and thanksgiving
5. Go in peace, until the next morning!
Voila! You just did children’s ministry and youth ministry in about a half a day
If you decide to do this, please let me (Cindee) know how is went and if would do it again!
Of course, you could also do this with ALL your volunteers, which would provide some Adult Faith Formation as well...
Cindee Case, MAPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.