Sunday, July 16, 2017
by Fr. Tom Hurley
Last Sunday at the 9:30 and 11:15 am masses, I spoke about my experience of being away over the 4th of July on a summer Worktour with nineteen of our Foundations Teens and five young adult leaders. Over the past eight years, I’ve gone on six Worktours with our teenagers and each trip has been uniquely enriching and equally exhausting! This summer’s mission experience to eastern Kentucky was no different. We worked hard; we sweated a lot; I took a board of nails in the back; I was stung by a wasp between my eyes; I ate unhealthy foods; I was sleep deprived; and, at times, I was frustrated by my young friends for their lack of skills on the work site….and yet, I would do it all over again. In this day and age, I don’t think there are too many of my colleagues who are packing a bag and going off on mission trips with high school kids, unfortunately. Though as it happens every summer upon my return, I become enthusiastic and excited again for the opportunities we have with these extraordinary members of the next generation of the church.
Beyond the wild music, the loud van rides, and the occasional inability to focus on work that may not be appealing, I continue to walk away from these experiences inspired by these outrageously thoughtful young people of the 21st century. Even though it often goes late into the evening, one of my favorite parts of the Worktours is the conversations we have at the end of each day, commonly referred to as “Devotions.” After a time of journaling, a teaching exercise, and some group prayer, the teens and the leaders spend some time reflecting on a moment of grace (ie. a moment during the day when they felt the presence of God). It is absolutely inspiring stuff to hear the incredible insights they walk away with from their day. Some of it is very funny and other observations are richly imaginative of how they made some connection of their experience to the deeper mysteries of God.
If you couldn’t tell, I’m a big fan of Worktour. Until 2010 with my first trip to New Orleans, I never envisioned myself going on one of these. They are, in my mind, great opportunities for growth and spiritual enrichment, let alone wonderful opportunities for new friendships to be formed among our teens. Likewise, I stand utterly grateful to our fearless leader Courtney Nichols who directs our Foundations Youth Ministry, for her tireless work in not just coordinating these time intensive, detail overloaded trips, but more importantly for her own
great spirit and the insightful theological connections she helps our teens to make while on their journey.
I’m mindful therefore of Matthew’s text for today, this 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Jesus talks in parables and uses the example of the seeds that are sown. Some of it falls on rocky ground, others fall among the weeds, and much of it falls on good rich soil where it grows abundantly. The Kingdom of God and the faith formation of the next generation is only going to produce disciples if we give them opportunities for growth. I’m not saying that a summer work tour is the only opportunity, but it’s certainly one among many possibilities. More importantly has to be our commitment to inviting and encouraging our children and teens on their journey of faith. We are at a critical moment in history when so much of the cultural messages the next generation is receiving says that faith and church life doesn’t matter. We need to say otherwise. I hope you will join me in making sure that we provide good, enriching moments for the gospel message of Jesus Christ to come alive in the hearts of our teens and young adults. Thank you for all of your support of our mission at Old St. Pat’s, especially the annual Pancake Breakfast, Workday in May, and other forms of fundraising the kids do in order to make the Summer Worktours possible. I am very grateful and so are they!
Enjoy these summer days!
Father Tom Hurley