Thu. Oct 22nd, 2020

Those that know me well will hopefully verify that this is true: I attempt to be one who uses words carefully. One of my brothers will text me when events use the phrase “first annual” – a phrase which I do not like, which cannot exist, and remains a thorn in my linguistic side. When writing articles or policies in a group setting, others will often turn to me when trying to determine the correct word or phrase to properly convey the particular message. Is my journalism degree and background to blame? Are my rigorous English classes in high school and college to blame?
All of that to say, I do not use this word lightly or often: unprecedented, an adjective meaning “without previous instance; never before known or experienced; unexampled or unparalleled.” Certainly, this word has been used lately to describe the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on our families, communities and the world. For once, I am not arguing against the use of the word “unprecedented” in this particular context.
Writing this regular column is usually an exercise done in my office, or in the rare cases of facing a deadline, on the road in airports or hotels. For this column, however, I am writing from my new “corner office” – an unused corner of our home dining room which I have made into a makeshift workstation. The usual ambient noise of the office has morphed into math conversations between my wife and our twins with an added exclamation from the three year old playing on the iPad.
The examples of normalcy and routine being disturbed are plentiful: closed movie theaters, cancelled concerts and limited social activities. Even steadfast organizations that do not easily or routinely shutter, such as DisneyWorld and Waffle House, have temporarily closed or shifted in a major way. It seems impossible to avoid the news or the concepts of “social distancing” or “flattening the curve.”
As Catholic Christians living in southern Alabama, we are experiencing elements of our faith life “never before known or experienced.” Our Catholic schools shifting to distance learning, public Masses being suspended, and even our beloved fish fries were affected.
How does this developing situation affect our young people? How are our teens and young adults doing right now? I have asked our youth ministry leaders and myself these questions often over these past few weeks.
I believe that this will be a generationally defining moment for Gen Z or the iGen (those born between 1995 and early 2010s). As a millennial, I remember exactly where I was and what I felt as a sophomore in high school on Sept.. 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon; 9/11 is a generationally defining moment, as is the Challenger space shuttle tragedy, the assassination of President Kennedy, etc.
Our young people are experiencing grief, loss and disappointment. Seniors are grieving the loss of prom or “senior privileges.” College students are grieving the loss of quick departures from campus, some without even a goodbye to dear friends. Young people across our diocese and the country are experiencing a sudden upheaval of routine and normalcy.
Yet, our young people are incredibly resilient. Their comfort with technology as digital natives has been a great blessing as their lives shift to a digital space while at home. Young people experience social media connections with as much realness as personal friendships. This generation sees their peers accomplish great works at a young age and believes that they individually and collectively can be the change they seek in the world.
This will be a defining moment for our parents, the spiritual heads of their domestic churches. Our family has experienced the unexpected blessings of praying the Rosary as a family more often, of being able to stream Mass with my dad serving as a deacon and my mom proclaiming the readings as a lector, of playing board games and made up games. I know that many parents are overwhelmed or facing economic uncertainty, and I experience that at times as well. A dear friend who is also a respected voice in the mental health field shared with me, do what you can, not what you can’t. If you can pray a single Hail Mary as a family, do that. If you can take a walk and thank God for His creation, do that. If you can’t, that’s OK.
This will be a defining moment for our youth ministry leaders. I have been checking in with them periodically throughout this ordeal and I am amazed at the creativity that they are implementing to maintain connection with their young people and their families. From creating a YouTube channel to daily quarantine challenges on Instagram, our dedicated leaders are stepping up and making things happen. One youth ministry leader, who officially took the reins in early March, has ramped up his parish’s social media and created a weekly video, even though his first official act as youth ministry leader was to suspend the in-person gatherings.
This will be a defining moment for many of us. Difficult decisions have already been made, and many more will be on the horizon. As Professor Dumbledore told Harry Potter, “soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”
As Scripture reminds us, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. The events of the Sacred Triduum were unprecedented and necessary for our salvation. While crucifixions were common in the Roman Empire, what transpired days later were “without previous instance” — Jesus rose from the dead, just as He said He would. Our faith is built upon the Paschal Mystery, a defining moment for all of humanity.
These are saint-making times. God can do and has done beautiful things through the adversity and difficulty we are facing together though physically apart. The saints being formed in our diocese through this time will be “without previous instance.” The glorious works performed will be “never before known or experienced.” May our holiness be “unexampled or unparalleled.” Let us rise to an unprecedented level of sanctity.
— 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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