LifeTeen CEO: Love, examples help teens’ faith

| Susan Klemond | April 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

Catholic youth are experiencing their own “climate change” as they face moral challenges at a younger age and lead busier lives that don’t allow time to consider their faith seriously, said LifeTeen president and CEO Randy Raus, who spoke April 8 at the 2016 LiveFamily! Expo at St. Raphael in Crystal.

Randy Raus

Randy Raus

Parishes need to reach out to young people and their parents earlier, because if youth leave the Church, it’s not likely they’ll return as adults, he said.

“Young people aren’t leaving the Catholic Church because they come to the Church and they reject the teachings of the Church,” said Raus, whose Mesa, Arizona-based Catholic youth ministry movement serves more than 1,800 U.S. parishes, including several in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. “What we’re seeing is that young people leave the Church because they show up and they’re not hearing the truth of the Church, and it doesn’t seem like it’s relevant today.”

On the first day of the two-day expo called “A Mission of Mercy to the Family,” Raus gave the roughly 80 attendees — mostly marriage and youth ministry leaders and couples — ideas for loving young people and helping them grow in their faith. The expo was sponsored by the Cana Family Institute, the archdiocese and the Diocese of St. Cloud. Bishop Andrew Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis presided at Mass and gave a short talk.

Married couples’ love for each other will overflow to their children, Raus said. Through their own pursuit of holiness, parents and youth leaders can be an example to youth and challenge them to grow in their faith.

Besides being an example to all youth, loving boys means assuring them they have what it takes to succeed, while loving girls means letting them know they are beautiful and worthy of pursuit, Raus said.

He also advised parents to talk to their teens about their own relationship with God and, when possible, set up opportunities for them to meet God at their parish or elsewhere. “Where young people encounter Christ is through others who’ve encountered Christ and walk with them,” he said.

Raus also suggested helping young people deepen their faith by encouraging them to learn about and perform works of mercy and go on mission trips.

“Young people will rise to the challenge if we call them to holiness,” he said.

Along with 16 marriage and family exhibitors, the expo featured interactive marriage and family skills workshops, said Jeannine Backstrom, executive director of Twin Cities-based Cana Family Institute, the parent organization for the Familia marriage and family support program. Along with ministry leaders, the expo offered support to parents, who are the primary leaders in the family, she said.

Phil and Sarah Ervin attended the expo as they prepared to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. They were looking for ways to connect with other young couples in order to build Catholic community and spiritually strengthen their marriage, they said. Parishioners at Holy Family in St. Louis Park, they noted that there are more resources for Catholics in different phases of life than there are for young married couples.

Bishop Cozzens spoke about the fruit of love, joy, peace and mercy, sharing how Christ’s love can heal wounds, enabling spouses to make gifts of love and life to each other and their children.

“That experience of mercy heals us, and it’s really what makes us capable of true joy and love,” he said. “It’s what brings about the real union of marriage.”

Parents and ministry leaders’ own experience of mercy also helps them love teens, Raus said.

“If we don’t know mercy ourselves, it’s going to be really hard to show works of mercy to other people,” he said.

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