STURGEON BAY — If anything puzzles Ann Hill, it’s that Catholics are often satisfied that they know all they need to know to live and appreciate their Catholic faith.
“That’s funny,” she recently told a parent who questioned the need for her child to be part of Life Teen since he had gone to a Catholic school. “I went to a Catholic school, too, and I’m still learning things I’d never heard of before.”
Hill has seen this attitude among parents of Life Teen students during the 10 years she has volunteered as a core team member at her now-26-year-old daughter Emily’s invitation. Hill also has two other adult children.
That’s part of the reason why Hill stays with Life Teen, even though she’s volunteered in many other groups in the parish throughout the years. Studying and preparing to work with the teens every Sunday evening has brought her to a better understanding of her faith — and of herself. She feels she’s doing some good, and that she’s helping impact the lives of students who may have no other place to go to build their faith.
“Kids can get bullied in school for talking about faith issues,” Hill said. “And sometimes their own parents just aren’t engaged in their faith. Life Teen is a safe place for the teens, where they can ask questions about anything and it will never go any further — unless it’s something life-threatening.”
That has happened, Hill said. Students have admitted to having suicidal thoughts, and that’s when Hill encourages them to speak with their parents. Sometimes, she said, the Scripture-based discussions held by small groups during Life Teen nights can get pretty deep, and the questions the teens ask can be challenging. Hill and the other team members read and study beforehand in order to be prepared, but unexpected questions can still arise. Answers will be sought for the next week, if necessary, she said.
While Life Teen is about molding young people in their own faith, Hill said it has had a huge impact on her faith, too.
“Life Teen has made me a better person,” Hill said. “The kids make me better, because they expect me to be the kind of person I’m encouraging them to be. I have to model the faith, but be genuine about it in my own life. You never know who’s watching.”
A special aspect of Life Teen for Hill is the mission trip taken each year to various parts of the country. They work, they pray, they bond, they play. And they often experience God.
“I love it when someone ‘gets it,’” Hill said. “When, for the first time, the presence of the Holy Spirit washes over them and God becomes a real, loving person. It revitalizes me for the whole year.”
Hill said that adults who go on the mission trips give up part of their vacation, get no pay, and spend $800 to make the trip, “and it’s the most rewarding thing there is.”
Her own prayer life has deepened through her involvement with Life Teen, she said. Because the evenings with the teens are always structured around Scripture, Hill finds herself reading the Bible more, spending time with the “Daily Word,” and just having conversations with God throughout the day.
“I lean on him a lot,” she said.
Back in 2012, Hill donated a kidney to her nephew, and said she wasn’t a bit nervous about what might happen. “I put it in God’s hands, and I know that’s a safe place to be,” Hill said.
Sharing faith with the teens has also prepared Hill to share faith with others in other situations. The medals of her heavenly favorites that she wears — the Immaculate Conception, the Holy Spirit, St. Michael the Archangel and a cross — often spark comments and questions and a chance to share her faith in and love for God.
Although Hill works full time for an optometrist, and volunteers with the Sturgeon Bay Lions Club, it’s the Sunday nights with Life Teen that are firmly embedded within her. They are the times when she teaches and learns, shares and listens, and does it all for and with God and her Catholic faith.