Yesterday I was at a gathering of people who work in parishes as I do. We were discussing Whole Community Catechesis, a new movement to engergize and light a fire of the Holy Spirit in parishes of every size and configuration. I was very excited to be there, even though I was the only member of my parish team to attend.
The table directly in front of me was filled with people from parishes in the city in which I attended high school. I was familiar with a few of the people at the table from other work I have done in youth ministry and religious education. One of the men at the table is a Franciscan Brother whom I have known for many years. He happens to be currently assigned to the parish where my oldest angeldaughter attends mass, and I wanted to let him know that he should tell his confrers that I am very happy that whatever they are doing is keeping my daughter attending Mass regularly.
There was another woman at the table who looked very familiar to me. When I read her nametag I couldn’t help but smile. She happened to be a woman who was involved in youth ministry back when I was in high school and she was in her earlly adulthood. I had just recently lost my father, and moved to an entirely different state and was feeling very invisible and worthless. I was attending youth ministry activities more because my mother wanted me to than because I wanted to. This woman befriended me and was very influential in my beginning to feel good about myself.
They tell you in youth ministry training that you may never know the influence you have on the kids to whom you minister. I have felt that void often enough. This was one time in my life that I was allowed to let someone who had been a great influence on not only my spiritual walk but also my emotional well being that she had made a difference. In fact, if I had to list the people who, along with my parents, were directly responsible for my being in ministry right now, she would be one of them.
It wasn’t anything she taught me. It was more that she was willing to share her faith with me, and that her faith mattered to her. It was also that she seemed to be really interested in who I was as a person. She really was a model of Christian friendship at a time when I needed friends, and for that I will always be grateful.
It felt really good to be able to tell her. She promised to seek out my daugther some Sunday at Mass and introduce herself. She is just the mothering type of loving friend that my daughter needs. I encouraged her to do just that. If I can’t be there to influence my daughter, I would love to know that there are other “moms” who will step into the void and keep an eye on her. This is one experience from my teen-age years I would love to share with my daughter.