Mon. Oct 19th, 2020

A few weekends ago, at a leadership workshop for teenagers, I made the obvious comment, intended for a laugh, that I was once a teenager. It seems so obvious; I am currently a young adult, so it’s not like I just skipped over that period of adolescence. I shared a little bit about my personal testimony as a young person who encountered Christ, who loved serving the Church, who once struggled with putting discipleship as a primary priority ahead of leadership. It was a glimpse, however brief, of teenage Adam Ganucheau.
Recent headlines have brought teenage Adam back into my mind. I remember being a teenager when the idea of child protection started in our local parish. I remember being a teenager who experienced the change at retreats, when adults in the parish started using the terminology “safe environment.” In short, I remember being a teenager when the child abuse scandal first broke in the early 2000s.
Feelings of confusion, hurt and sadness were met with feelings of disgust and anger. How could this happen in a sacred place? What we took for granted, that we as young people could participate in parish life and in the Church, was tweaked and modified to address what was happening in Boston and in other parts of the country.
For me, I took great hope and solace that the Church had endured other scandals, other trials in her 2,000-year history. The crucifix that hung in my room, in my school and in my parish reminded me that Jesus Christ suffered. He knows the experience of suffering, so I can confidently turn to Him in prayer when situations are difficult.
After the bishops’ charter, things like background checks and child protection trainings became part of the normal way of ministry with young people. When I became a theology teacher, I didn’t bat an eye when I was fingerprinted, had a background check run on me and the school ensured my diocesan safe environment training was up to date all before I was officially hired. These safeguards are necessary but I didn’t call them into question; it was a small part in ensuring that further abuse would be less likely to take place.
I chose, and continue to choose, to be faithful. I chose to strive for holiness. I chose to remain open to God who may call me to serve Him. I am Catholic not because of one priest, one parish, one Catholic school. I am Catholic because of Jesus Christ and my belief that He suffered, died and rose for me. “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
I am a part of the Church that He instituted. When one part of the Church suffers, we all suffer. The grand jury report from Pennsylvania has left many of us, including myself, with a variety of emotions — anger, hurt, disappointment, confusion. I recognized those feelings welling up within me as similar to those I experienced as a teenager.
I encounter and accompany young people from middle school, high school, college and young adults. I imagine many of them are experiencing similar emotions that I felt all those years ago. I hope that I can relate to them, to empathize with them, to accompany them through this. If I could stick by the Church then, I have great hope that there are teens who will stick with the Church over the next 10 or 20 years. I know that I was blessed to attend Catholic school for my entire educational career; I cannot imagine the added scrutiny this adds to the young people in non-Catholic schools, who often already get many questions, challenges and dismissals.
I am not alone. There are youth ministry leaders in our diocese and across the country who remember this darkness first coming to light and choose to serve anyway. There are seminarians and priests who answered the call to serve, even in the midst of these tragedies. There are holy men and women who are faithful to the Church because they are faithful to Jesus Christ. There are men and women who strive for holiness with joy and boldness. I truly believe that the Holy Spirit will continue to stir within the hearts and minds of our young people.
We need holy young people, saints of today and tomorrow. We need young people to help propel the Church forward. St. Ignatius of Loyola used the word “magis,” Latin for more, in his Spiritual Exercises and it is one of the core values of an Ignatian spirituality. What more can we do for Christ? How can we strive for more excellence? Young people have the natural tendency and the energy to continually strive for more – not on a quantitative level, but a qualitative level.
The good news for our youth is that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Even in the midst of uncertainty and unrest, the Lord stretches out His hand and heals those suffering and in pain. There is joy in loving Christ and embracing the Church.
I pray for our Church, for those survivors and for those who committed these evil acts. I pray that our young people will ask the right questions, search for the truth and move us deeper and closer to the heart of Christ. I pray, too, that our young people grow in holiness and virtue so that they can provide the hope and encouragement for future generations.
— Adam Ganucheau is the Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Mobile. He may be emailed at aganucheau@mobarch.org
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By Editor

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