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Youths need spiritual connection to service, say spearers.

By STEPHEN O'KANE Catholic News Service Atlanta Although Catholic youths are used to doing service work, they need to find a way to connect their volunteering with their faith, according to speakers at a conference in Atlanta.

Service activities have become commonplace in Catholic high schools and for confirmation candidates, but the volunteer work almost has become a "requirement to fulfill," said Jill Rauh, youth and young adult coordinator for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.

Rauh, one of the speakers July 25 on the final day of the Social Action Summer Institute at Oglethorpe University, said there needs to be more of a connection among social issues, action and the teachings of the church.

Rauh led the session called "The Prophetic Role of Young Catholics" with Grace Cassetta, diocesan director of youth ministry and adolescent catechesis in the Las Cruces, N.M., diocese.

In the seminar, the attendees were asked for some words or phrases describing today's generation of youths. The long list they came up with included "actionoriented," "tech-savvy" and "passionate."

The list was then put into perspective as Rauh and Cassetta led the partici pants through h series of statistics compried from several sources. The women touched on important facets of the youth community, including their political ideals, social action experience and personalities.

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"The goal in terms of social mission is to help teens recognize they are part of a larger community," said Rauh.

The speakers said theY were specifically speaking of the segment of the population known as Generation Y, or the "millennials"--those born between the years 1979 and 1997.

According to a survey by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, only 18 percent of this age group attends Mass weekly; 36 percent attends Mass monthly. However, of those who do attend Mass monthly or more frequently, 85 percent believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

During the Session participants discussed strategies that could be used to help youths make more spiritual connections. Participants suggested that church leaders make an effort to talk to teens one-on-one and give them leadership roles.

Catarina Torres from the Dallas diocese said service projects are good for young people, but if they don't have any relevance to the teachings of the church they can become monotonous and lose meaning.

Other participants suggested that parish leaders use social networking Web sites, such as Facebook, to arrange activities for youths and give them a chance to spread the message to their friends.

Rauh believes that for teens serviceoriented projects are a "starting point," which can lead to "permanent change" if leaders help bring more meaning to the activities.

"There is a deeper level to service that we want these teens to experience," she said.
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Title Annotation:MINISTRIES
Author:O'Kane, Stephen
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 19, 2008
Words:473
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