Life Teen Mass Story

Special to your Catholic Herald

Kids and their families fill St. Mary Church in Kenosha during a LIfe Teen Mass. (Catholic Herald photo by Jim Bovin) KENOSHA – At first it might sound like a rock concert rather than Mass, but leadership at more than 1,000 parishes throughout the world are hoping participants in Life Teen will consider a life in Christ.In its fourth year, the Life Teen group, Crossroads, is part of the St. Mary and St. Therese parishes’ youth ministry. Offering support, resources and training, teens and their families experience the depths of God’s love through the Word, the community, and the Eucharist. Preaching and upbeat music bring the Catholic Mass to life. Following the biweekly Life Teen Mass, Brian Magliocco, St. Mary youth minister, and his 12-member core team lead the teens into their Catholic faith in the Life Night Experience. As a faith community, the teens grow in understanding of what it means to be young and Catholic in the new millennium.“I think something like this is great, because a lot of high school youth are hesitant about coming to church because they think they’ll be the only ones their age,” said Redemptorist Fr. Jim White from Oconomowoc, who frequently celebrates Mass at St. Mary Church in Kenosha with Crossroads. As a “kick-off” to the new school year, Fr. White celebrated a youth Mass at St. Mary Parish on Aug. 26, and admitted his participation with the Kenosha area youth has been affirming for his call to priesthood.“I am so impressed with these young people; they are more than willing to share their faith with one another and with other adults,” he said. “I have seen such a great increase in the celebration of all the sacraments because of this group — especially the sacrament of reconciliation. Their confessions are not what I would typically experience with teens; they are so much more. These kids have a tremendous and deep faith and heartfelt desire to grow closer to God; I have witnessed a total surrender to the Lord among most of these youths.”Teen now ‘proud of Catholic faith’Beginning her second year with Crossroads, Rachel Malsack, 15, is excited to admit to her peers that she is proud of her Catholic faith, something she attributes to Life Teen. “I love it. It feels like home,” said the Tremper High School sophomore. “I was not into my faith until I came here. They are so welcoming and I really look forward to Sunday nights.”Malsack is not the only teenager in the Kenosha parish who has grown enthusiastic about Mass sponsored by the two parishes. Crossroads Life Teen is getting positive reviews from its young people for spirit-filled liturgies and programs that seem to bring them closer to Jesus Christ.Following the Aug. 26 Life Teen Mass, Magliocco hosted a concert and barbeque for area teens and young adults. Magliocco appreciates all of the help from assisting priests, such as Fr. White’s willingness to guide the youth spiritually, as well as his effort to direct his homilies to the teens’ level. In addition to enthusiastic pastoral leadership, Magliocco said that speaking to teens where they are comfortable is an important step in reaching them.Open to youth, usually in high school, but some younger and older, of all backgrounds and denominations, Magliocco said Crossroads tries to make everyone feel welcome.“We chose the name Crossroads because teens are at a crossroads when they are in high school as to whether they are going to follow the world well,” Magliocco said. “We feel that this program is one of the best ways to do that. We engage them through many different prayer experiences, talks, testimonies, small groups, games, skits, dramas, music and videos. All of this is designed to help them see that faith can be enjoyable and should be a way of life.”The International Life Teen organization, based in Mesa, Ariz., is rooted in Catholicism. The program was organized in 1985 by Fr. Dale Fushek to reach teens who were leaving the church because they “didn’t feel loved in the Catholic Church,” according to Life Teen 101, a brief history of the organization. When Fr. Fushek and two colleagues brought their youth messages and music to television two years later, word spread quickly and teen outreach programs sprang up in neighboring parishes. According to Life Teen’s communications director, Tricia Tembreull, each parish pays a $695 annual subscription fee to the national Life Teen office. For that investment, it receives liturgical guidelines that suggest which music goes with the Sunday readings, materials for Life Nights, training and retreats, and CDs of music. At St. Mary and St. Therese, the Crossroads program and the Mass are modeled after the four-part flow of the Mass. “It helps them see that the church is relevant in their daily lives, not only when they are adults, but now,” Magliocco said. “And that they are not just the future of the church, but they have a duty to be actively involved now and that their opinions and ideas do matter. It also helps them see the importance of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Life Teen is an extremely Eucharistic organization. This is why we begin the night with a Life Teen youth Liturgy. We are showing them that everything we do points from and back to the Eucharist because it is the source and summit of our faith as Catholics.”Encourages vocationsFor Malsack, the decision to attend Life Teen has helped her to make better decisions in her life, and while she initially lost some of her old friends after joining the group, she gained new ones who supported the spiritual changes in her life.“In the beginning, I was afraid to admit that I belonged to Crossroads and pretty much hid it from my friends,” she said. “Now I wear Crossroads T-shirts to school and am really proud to belong to this group.”Blair Meeker, 17, of Bradford High, and Chris Stancato, 15, and Joe Stancato, 17, both home-schooled, have similar stories. The friends credit Life Teen for helping them to grow in their faith and meet others who are not afraid to worship God.“I just feel that each time I come here, I get more of the grace of God,” said Meeker. “At school, I am unable to talk about my faith; I would get laughed at, right in my face. Here, I can feel free to open up to people about God at anytime.”While some teens might spend Sunday evening attending a movie or playing video games, Joe Stancato prefers to be at the Life Teen Mass. “This is right where I want to be; I never feel like I don’t want to be here,” he said, adding, “This group has helped me know God in a personal way and it has made me into a different person.”Life Teen has given the youths a comfortable venue to explore the challenge of a religious vocation. “I have really felt called to the priesthood and I attribute that to attending Life Teen Masses and the Teen Tuesday sessions,” Joe Stancato said, adding, “I think we all feel this way and we are not embarrassed to say it.”

2 thoughts on “Life Teen Mass Story

  1. Blessed be The Youth that is reached by this unique program LifeTeen. Last five years my eyes have seen The Salvation of The Lord given to His People, especially youth, through experiance of friendship, Celebration of The Eucharist and belonging to The Church through that Youth Ministry Program in Europe (Slovenia) also.Proclaim, dear Karen!

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