We have an obligation as individuals and as a community to respond to our teenagers
By Tony Staley
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
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
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.