Sat. Oct 24th, 2020

As the son of a Catholic schoolteacher, I have gotten used to being called into service for my mom’s classroom. In 2008, after graduating from college, I was asked by Mrs. Ganucheau to help her with another project. She was teaching a very basic lesson on elections, even making a small, curtained voting booth. The race was very important to her 4-year-old students: pizza versus ice cream.
I took on the important task of being the ice cream candidate. Scoop in one hand and drawing on my years in musical theater, I excited the crowd by having them chant “ice cream” and by screaming a variety of flavors. The pizza candidate, the son of the other teacher, fell a little flat that day. When the Starburst candies were counted, it was a sweet victory — “ice cream” by a landslide.
Those students are now teenagers. I hope that they have had other experiences to shape their voting acumen, but I have been thinking about those students and my role in their first, and very minimal, introduction to elections.
According to the Pew Research Center, Generation Z voters will make up 1 in 10 eligible voters this fall. Between the ages of 18 and 23, those Gen Z voters represent a diverse group of young people finding their voice. LaRed, the national Catholic network for Pastoral Juvenil Hispana, organized a campaign called #Every30Seconds, or #Cada30Segundos, highlighting that every 30 seconds, a young Latino/Hispanic turns 18 in the U.S.
While parents and other adults accompany our young people, it is important that they have the space and the ability to be protagonists of their own faith journey, to be the main player in the story of their lives. If we give them the opportunity to ask difficult questions and to seek the truth on their terms, we give room for the Holy Spirit to be stirred up within them, for them to call upon the gifts they received at Baptism and sealed in Confirmation.
The work of forming our conscience is not a task done every four years. It takes time, energy, and prayer. A well-formed and well-informed conscience is a gift, one that helps us discern challenging decisions which apply reason and sound judgment.
The USCCB, in its teaching document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” states: “Catholics have a serious and lifelong obligation to form their consciences in accord with human reason and the teaching of the Church. Conscience is not something that allows us to justify doing whatever we want, nor is it a mere ‘feeling’ about what we should or should not do. Rather, conscience is the voice of God resounding in the human heart, revealing the truth to us and calling us to do what is good while sunning what is evil.” (no. 17)
Our young people are watching older generations, and if there is ever a group of people that can identify inauthenticity, it is teenagers. Young people have a sixth sense of genuineness. Parents and those adults who accompany young people can model a good formation of conscience, rooted in openness to the Holy Spirit, a study of God’s word in Scripture and the teaching of the Church, and steadfast prayer to discern the will of God.
There is much more at stake than pizza versus ice cream in this year’s election. Let us seek to form our consciences well and to mentor our young people to form their conscience. Above all, let us model charity and civility. Our young people see that, too.
In the end, pizza versus ice cream doesn’t matter nearly enough as holiness. Sainthood is a cause we can all support.
— Adam Ganucheau is the Director of the Office of Youth Ministry for the Archdiocese of Mobile. He may be emailed at aganucheau@mobarch.org
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By Editor

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