Life Center for All

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others? – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I had a chance to meet with the priests of the Southern Deanery (the Catholic Churches from Bonita Springs to Marco Island and out to Immokalee and Ave Maria) to discuss our new Life Center and in particular, the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO).  Prior to our chance to speak, the local Catholic Schools gave their annual updates on their current efforts to educate the youth of the area.  They spoke of their difficulties in attracting students and families.  It struck me that the 3 Elementary/Middle and 2 High Schools’ total attendance this year is not even the total amount of youth here at Saint John the Evangelist, showing there is a significant deficit in reaching children in Naples with Catholic Education.  Then, the new Diocesan Director of Religious Education spoke to the priests passionately about her desire to connect the youth and their parents with our faith through her efforts.  She spoke about the “drop-off” mentality of the parents, who do not see anything for them when they bring their children to Faith Formation, along with recognizing that the single hour a child has on campus for Faith Formation may not be enough to truly engage them.  I felt like I wanted to jump out of my seat and shout “Hey!  We have this!!!”, but I stayed reserved until it was our turn to speak. 

Over a dozen priests from all the various parishes listened intently to our update on CYO and the Life Center.  We explained that the issues described by the previous groups are caused because the Catholic Church is not going out of itself and reaching out to the youth and their families where they are.  They are not in the pews every hour of every single day.  Instead, they are on the soccer field, or in the gym for volleyball or basketball.  They are in the music room learning an instrument.  They are building Legos and going to nature preserves for their scientific programs.  They are acting in a play or painting a landscape.  And their families are cheering them on, or coaching, or sitting in the audience.  That is exactly what CYO is.  CYO is bringing the youth together in persistent, safe, affordable, and enlivening activities, where they are.  It is bringing their parents, guardians, grandparents, and the whole community in to support them and encourage them.  It is building a Catholic Community focused on the bright, hopeful future of our faith that will attract everyone around us, excited to be a part of us.  Every priest was in complete agreement at the end of the discussion and we now have the opportunity to build a federation of parishes dedicated to developing CYO for all of the Southern Deanery.

We’ve Got This!  We Are Saint John!

As we Build Our Future, Serve Our Past, we still need all the gifts, prayers, and support of our Parish Family.  If you have any questions, please contact Jean-Paul Boucher, at 239-566-8740 or email: jp@sjecc.com.

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