by Deacon Bill Scholl
As the clouds seem to clear on the pandemic, we are realizing that the lockdowns hurt many of our teens’ mental health.
According to recent findings released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on a survey of 7,705 U.S. high school students, “44% of them reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in a row. Thirty-seven percent said their mental health was most of the time or always not good during the pandemic.”
Christianity prescribes helping others as a sure path to peace, and mental health experts concur. There is a science to resilience, and the data shows that providing teens opportunities for meaningful connections with positive adults and peers is extremely powerful in mitigating the effects of trauma.
We have only to look at the mystery of the Visitation, in which Mary, a teenager, responds to the distress of an unplanned pregnancy (at least for her and Joseph) by pondering God’s calling in her heart and going out in haste to help her cousin Elizabeth.
Pope St. John Paul II described Mary’s response as one of “prayer and action.” The Prayer and Action mission (aka PandA) could be just what the youth in your parish need right now.
Prayer and Action is a local mission trip that enables teens to experience Christ through meditative prayer, Mass and the sacraments, works of charity and authentic Christian fellowship. It also happens to be a lot of fun.
Because this mission occurs in the archdiocese, costs remain low and scholarships are available. This year, Prayer and Action will serve Emporia and will be hosted by Sacred Heart Parish there.
This summer ministry enables Catholic teens to get out of themselves to help others who are most in need. This service is done by the laboring hands and the open hearts of high school students and their adult leaders.
The most important aspect of Prayer and Action is encountering Christ through service. Teens grow as disciples when they get out of themselves.
Prayer and Action sessions last five days, with parish youth groups arriving on Sunday evening and staying until Friday morning. Throughout the week, teens paint, do yardwork, and perform other meaningful tasks for the poor, disabled and elderly.
Teens spend the week in an atmosphere free of distractions, which fosters faith, inspires charity and leads them closer to Christ. The experience also allows them to encounter other high school students from other parts of the archdiocese who share their Catholic faith. Prayer and Action is led by a team of archdiocesan seminarians and dynamic Catholic women.
Staff and volunteer chaperones work with the teens at each site. In the evenings, teens experience “Collatio,” the retreat portion of Prayer and Action. This is perhaps the most important part of the day as the students play, worship and grow together in Jesus Christ.
Prayer and Action is happening from mid-June to mid-July. To learn more about how your parish can bring a group, or to register, go online to: PandAKC.org.