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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

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Bishop Fabre urged Religious Educators to find new way to reach our youth

Bishop Fabre urged Religious Educators to find new way to reach our youth

The following is a brief summary of Bishop Shelton Fabre’s address to the Religious Educators of our youth.

As a Bishop and spiritual father to all the young people of the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese, I have a deep personal longing for their true happiness and eternal salvation. I want us to be grounded in the reality that ultimately any vision for Religious Education Programs, any visions for youth ministry, and any changes to the structures that evangelize our youth are all oriented to salvation of souls.

If we are to appreciate the vision that God is leading us, we must be open to this new vision with an open mind and heart: there is an urgency in our mission because an urgency exists regarding salvation. We are facing new and very real challenges in our culture. We can make the case that today secularization has more of an influence on our youth than the Gospel.

Presently there is a rejection of a common moral code held by community as a whole. There are complex family issues. All of this is affecting our young people. We notice their decreasing attention span, difficulties in their ability to communicate in healthy ways, a real poverty of deep and meaningful relationships, as well as confusion over many foundational beliefs such as what it means to be human, what it means to be created male and female, and what is true love.

Today’s youth are being raised in a culture bombarding them with exposure to many “isms,” each of which offers false promises of fulfillment only to leave us empty and searching for more. Some of these “isms” are: narcissism, consumerism, and relativism, to name only a few.

There is an urgency. The situation we are facing with our young people demands that we produce an appropriate response. We must look for new ways to engage our young people. We must find new opportunities that allow them to encounter the love of Jesus personally. We must be ever more creative so that they take steps forward and grow in that relationship.

In 1976 Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the Superior General of the Jesuits, gave a talk to the 41st International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia. He urged Catholics to fall in love with God. Following the speech, Fr. Arrupe fielded questions from the crowd and one participant listener passively remarked: “Falling in love. That’s great. Now give me something practical.”

Fr. Arrupe spontaneously replied: “Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in love in an absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

We must form the whole person, not merely the mind. While we must have solid intellectual formation, there is also an urgency for more. Merely lecturing or presenting theological concepts no longer work. As we present authentic theological content, we must present this Truth so that we connect it to the real lives of the students.

The aim of Religious Education is living in a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ, not merely the transmission of theological content. We cannot just “cover the material.” We present the material AND the students themselves make connections between the material and their relationship with God.

We also must become experts in the students and the content. In the formation of a young person, it is vitally important that we not merely know the content, but that we know the student. We must become intentionally aware of where each student truly finds themselves on their journey of faith. We must start from this awareness to help each young person take the next step in their relationship with God.

Sometimes the journey with a young person can be a slow process that takes much patience and love. I am confident that God will supply us with the assistance of the Holy Spirit as we go forward together, assisting one another in the power of the Holy Spirit.