Teens 2018

150 150 Charlestown Catholic Collaborative

One Dad said to me, “You know, Father, I’ve decided that you have to pick your battles and try to figure out where the non-negotiables are”. He was speaking about daily life at home with two teenagers and it was clear to me that, at times, it can be a struggle. I suppose he could be speaking for any parent of teen and pre-teen children. Aiding children to navigate through their age-appropriate developmental tasks of establishing their own identity separate from that of their parents; identifying meaningful moral standards, values, and belief systems; learning to set priorities, parameters, and boundaries; helping them to grow and understand consequences for their actions; guiding them in their ability to develop internal and external resources to make good choices and so much more are worrisome responsibilities of every parent, and anxiety provoking undertakings for their adolescent children.

As if the tasks at hand were not already daunting, the culture, loud and at times toxic, makes the teen years even more challenging. Adolescence, while exciting and beautiful in so many ways, at times, can also be excruciatingly difficult. Every child yearns to belong, to be accepted and loved, especially in the rapid growth and development years when selfknowledge is limited, and feelings of awkwardness and uncertainty are normative. There is one enduring element of a teen’s development that can not only add stability but also nourish self-esteem, give a much needed moral compass and aid immeasurably in a child’s development – faith.

Developing/deepening an age appropriate relationship with God – a God who loves them unconditionally; endows them with dignity; calls them to live a purpose-filled life; assists them in their ability to chart their course in life, and anchors them in bedrock values provides needed support not only to the teen and to the entire family. Life may still be rocky at times, but we’re never alone, and we can receive what we need to regain level ground.

Many Catholic teens received the sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation, and Eucharist in their childhood years as parents sought to give them a foundation in their faith. The Sacrament of Confirmation takes place in adolescence. When adolescents enter the 9th grade, they are eligible to choose to begin the two year program (one year if the teen is enrolled in a Catholic High School) in preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation. At St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Confirmation classes begin with an information session for parents and students on Monday, October 1st, at 6:30pm at the Parish Center on 46 Winthrop Street. We invite and look forward to welcoming all high school students and their parents.

These are not easy days to be a teen in our city; while the opportunities are numerous, the challenges are as well. Preparing for and receiving Confirmation is one sure path that can strengthen a teenager’s awareness of God’s unconditional love, to develop the capacity to make good choices, belong more completely to a community, and add much needed purpose to daily life.

Fr. Ronan

Two Become One

150 150 Charlestown Catholic Collaborative

There are many young men and women in our Parish and others from outside of the Parish who wish to celebrate their marriage vows in beautiful Saint Mary’s Church. They notify us of this interest through the website* so that we know the specifics of their plans. Then I meet with them and begin their time of preparation.

Marriage preparation with these couples is one of the many joys of my life as a parish priest.

As we come to know each other, I ask them to explain to me how they met and, even more, to account the journey that has brought them to this moment of planning their marriage. Most often as they begin their story, always unique and beautiful, I tease details out of them and invite them to wonder how it all came to be. Wonder is the verb I ask them to use – not analyze, explain, critique or anything else. In my experience it is only by wondering that a couple can come to discover the truth about their relationship.

In the end, every story comes around to each person becoming amazed, humbled, delighted and awed by discovering in oneself and in the other, the love they have for one another. And when asked to explain how that came to be – it is not possible to offer an adequate response unless one takes the time to “wonder”. The truth is found in John’s gospel, “God is Love”. And this God is the source and giver of love to others. Love of its very nature is always generative and God’s love is seen and known in all creation and in each of us – we are the fruit of God’s love.

When seen this way, a couple comes to realize that it is God who is acting in this astonishing story of theirs and it is beautiful. The response to such a realization of being gifted is always gratitude – which of itself – forms a perfect prayer to God. I maintain that this prayer of thanks can become the mantra for married life, keeping God at the center of their marriage, freeing each of fear and worry and locating the miracle of the relationship on the work of God.
All of this may sound like a Pollyanna, sacrosanct view of married love, yet how else do we, any of us, explain love? Truth is, we cannot. And for that reason alone we write poems, paint pictures, create masterpieces of sculpture and art, glass and tapestry, choreographic dances, compose music and lyrics, write stories and more. Yet no work has or ever can describe and explain love. Because God is Love and God is above explanation.

This is not to say we cannot get close to God. For we have been given the most startling of all gifts in Jesus Christ, the GodMan born of Mary, who is the fullest expression of God the Father’s Love for humankind. It is in Him, through and because of Him that we get an authentic glimpse of God’s plan for humanity – God’s dream, if you will, for you and me and all of us: that we live in Love and choose each day to receive this gift from God in order to be complete ourselves and, as importantly, to give that very love away to another.

So it is that the love of husband and wife enables the two to become one, in mind, heart and body; each selflessly giving to the other to achieve a climax of completeness – what a paradox!

It seems to me all of us are searching to know this experience of love, the love that is fulfilled and fulfilling only when given away. This yearning leads to many seeking love in physical and sexual activity alone – believing it to be found there. Ironically it is impossible to “make love”, however, for God is Love. Many have learned this at a price.
And so we return to the beginning: God is Love, we are the work of God’s love and our destiny is realized when we accept this love as the singular force in life and give it away!

Fr. Ronan
*Couples interested in celebrating their marriage in our Parish can find information at our website: www.stmarystcatherine.org

Having Enough to Eat

150 150 Charlestown Catholic Collaborative

St. Mary – St. Catherine of Siena Parish social-ministry office has been serving Charlestown residents for fifteen years. In August, more than 300 families visited Harvest on Vine emergency food pantry, where we distributed roughly 20 thousand pounds of food. Because of generous benefactors, we are able to offer fresh produce at each distribution. In July, a combined total of two thousand pounds of potatoes, carrots, bananas, corn on the cob, bok choy, peppers, apples, and onions were given out. We are fortunate that we have so many dedicated volunteers and generous donors who support our mission.

Many of our new clients come to Charlestown from homeless shelters, literally with the clothes on their back, and their needs are great. The parish’s St. Vincent De Paul Society has been working with our new neighbors, providing them with furniture, beds, household wares, sheets, pillows, and blankets. We also help them with soap, toilet paper, shampoo, and detergent.

Our social-ministry committee is collaborating with the Boston chapter of the Ignatian Spirituality Project (ISP), a national program that offers homeless people retreats in the Spiritual Exercise of St. Ignatius of Loyola. We are studying the possibility of applying this approach to families living in poverty. The retreats lay a foundation of hope, a spiritual way of life, which can lead to a long -lasting transformation. The spiritual exercises—a series of meditations, prayers, and mental exercises, help people discern God’s will for their lives and grow closer to Him as a result. The program begins with a weekend retreat, followed by a daylong follow-up session, and then ongoing support sessions. Although we don’t serve the homeless, the Boston ISP director will adapt the program for us. More to come. All are welcome to participate.

The social-ministry committee is collaborating with Charlestown New Health to establish a walking program, possibly at Thomas M. Menino Park. The walking program will be open to all and will be a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know our neighbors better and to enjoy the beautiful harbor views. Not to mention the health benefits.

Youth movement…
The neighborly compassion that made Charlestown famous has been passed down to the next generation. Charlestown youngsters have initiated food drives and fundraisers to support Harvest on Vine. Students at the Harvard-Kent school collected and delivered more than 700 boxes of breakfast cereal, an amount that carried us for three distributions, feeding hundreds of families. A brother and sister on Rutherford Avenue raised $100 from their lemonade stand and donated the money to the food pantry. The funds will be used immediately to buy food for our next distribution. Seven years ago, a then four-year-old girl, under the guidance of her parents, started an annual backpack program, buying and filling backpacks with school supplies for children going back to school. Last spring, on her own, she also led a food drive at her school, collecting dozens of bags of groceries for the pantry. The girl scouts led a similar drive at the Warren Prescott.
The children at Good Shepherd School host food drives twice a year, and the religious education students fill decorated shopping bags with food for Thanksgiving and Easter.
This spirit of charity has been passed down, all because of the leadership in this community.
We also are grateful to the local organizations and businesses that support us. A special thank you to St. Francis De Sales Parish, who hosts Hungry Sunday, a monthly food drive. We at St. Mary-St. Catherine are most grateful for this support.
Harvest on Vine is registered as an emergency food pantry, but for most of our families, all of whom live far below the poverty line, the state of emergency never ends. Food insecurity is a constant for our neighbors. Harvest on Vine is hoping to alleviate that fear, but it’s not enough. Our goal is not just to eliminate food insecurity, rather to promote food security, so that every family in our community knows they will always have enough to eat.
Harvest on Vine is a success story and that success flows from many generous resources. Yet the most powerful of them all is the daily prayer of this Faith Community for the needs of those who struggle with hunger and poverty.

Tom MacDonald, Director, Parish Social Ministry

Public Health Threat

150 150 Charlestown Catholic Collaborative

In this morning’s newspaper there was an intriguing article about the threat to one’s health caused by loneliness. Amazing, yet not surprising.

Several years ago Facebook was front page news in papers around the country. The much anticipated IPO of the social media company concluded the first day with an estimated value of $105 billion. The results of this unimaginable event made Facebook the 25th largest company in the United States. The size may seem surprising for many reasons and yet 1 out of every 13 people on Planet Earth use Facebook. The exponential growth in popularity of this company has given rise to many theories and critiques.

In the May, 2008 issue of ATLANTIC, Steven Marche wrote an evocative article; Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? Marche develops the question and places it into the context of this age and culture – recalling the trend of social disintegration that has been documented since before David Riesman’s classic work, The Lonely Crowd. His research points to the age old human longing for connectedness (friendship, intimacy and love) and in the North American culture in particular, to the high value placed on independence, autonomy and self-reliance. It would seem that Facebook offers a marriage of these two longings: the illusion of intimacy along with the illusion of distance.

Stepping into our world 2000 years ago and today, Jesus speaks to these ageless longings of the human heart. The Architect, Engineer and Builder of you and me, knows each of us so very completely. The One who understands our hopes and dreams, our fears and sorrows, comes among us to lead us out of the shadows and darkness of our loneliness. How?

I believe each of us holds within a desire to see and know of God. And when I stop to wonder about my life and everything and everyone around me – looking back through the years – and become amazed at all that is and all that I am and all I yearn to do and become –I recognize it as Gift! Since childhood we have been taught how to receive a gift – with THANK YOU. Gratitude is key – it opens the door to everything.

And most important, gratitude opens the door to love. For once I know this love, in which I am held by God, in gratitude I am compelled to give it away; with family, friends, community and in service to others – my life is transformed by living in this experience of love. The entire life of Jesus, including His teaching and example along with His suffering, death and resurrection, everything points to and underscores the one single command that God has left us: Love one Another as I Have Loved You.

Facebook and any other technology of social media are tools, of which we have many. Like any other tool, their intrinsic value is dependent on how they are used. The gift of our faith is the one “tool” we have been given (in our Baptism) that opens for us a true way to realize intimacy and love as well as complete self-fulfillment. God offers us continual refreshment, forgiveness, nourishment and yes, there is something else. Once we receive these gifts we are to go out and give them away – in a deliberate choice to bring into a world so desperate for authentic intimacy and caught up in intriguing illusion.

Fr. Ronan