The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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March 23, 2001 Issue

Helping teens

We have an obligation as individuals and as a community to respond to our teenagers

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

We, as individuals and as a community must do something for our teenagers. The need was brought to focus clearly at the March Claude Allouez Forum at St. Norbert College as two Xavier High School students told of their experiences with alcohol and other drugs.

As eye-opening as these accounts were, even more surprising was the estimate by Sr. Mary Jo Kirt, director of the Mt. Tabor Center in Menasha, that such experiences are common among half or more of teens in northeast Wisconsin.

While there are no 100% fool-proof ways to make sure that teens do not become involved in alcohol, drugs and sex cultures, there are some things we can and should do to help them avoid these problems.

First, of course, parents need to be involved in their children's lives, talking to them, doing things with them, being concerned about them. How?

Fr. Ron Rolheiser, in his column in last week's Compass, offered this excellent advice: "A wise family will say: 'We will all be home at regular times, we will all eat together twice a day, and we will all be together in the living room at least once a day - even if it isn't exciting, even if real feelings aren't shared, even if some are bored, and even if some are protesting that this isn't worthwhile. We will do that because, if we don't, we will fall apart as a family. To stay together we need regular, straight-forward, predictable, daily rituals. We need the manna of daily presence to each other. Otherwise we'll die.'"

Some may see it as impractical or impossible, but families where members pass each other like ships in the night, each on their own schedule, seldom eating or being together, aren't working.

Second, as a society, we must recognize that our endless quest for happiness by acquiring possessions is doomed to fail. We will know happiness only through a solid relationship with God and others. We see evidence of that quest in our troubled teens who form relationships with the wrong people and make drugs and alcohol and sex their gods - following the example of their parents and other adults and popular culture celebrities.

As Catholics, we need to provide good youth programs, such as Bible groups - in our parishes and Catholic high schools - and LifeTeen Masses, such as at St. Raphael, Oshkosh, St. Bernard, Green Bay, and St. Thomas, Humboldt/Eaton.

Our teens are seeking direction. They will find it, no matter what. The question is who is leading the way. That's up to us.

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