My beloved spiritual children in Christ,
Christ is in our midst! He was, is, and ever shall be.
I would like to believe that for all of us, the entire parish, that our youth, our children are our first priority. As a parish we have many concerns and issues that we confront daily but there is no greater concern than that of the parish children. I feel to a great extent that we have failed to provide our parish children with the established Youth Ministries of our Holy Archdiocese and Metropolis of Chicago.
Initially the parish did consider the needs of the parish youth and invested much to build a facility, what is now the community center, with the youth in mind. It was a regular gym where our young people could play basketball and other sports. As time passed, however, the youth dwindled and so did the interest. The basketball equipment were left outside and rusted. There are many factors of course why the lack of participation and interest in parish connected youth activities. Since the community center was no longer used for the children it was converted into a banquet hall and rented out.
Over the years since then we have attempted to revive H.O.P.E., J.O.Y and G.O.Y.A. but without any success. We are now are attempting once again to organize the J.O.Y ministry under the supervision of Billie Limberopoulos and Isabel Gibbons, and we are confident that it will succeed. There are already twenty children that will be part of this ministry. What is needed is the support of the parents, parish council and the necessary funding for their various activities.
All of us understand and see that the adolescent world is changing rapidly--it is virtually impossible to keep up with every new trend and movement of their culture. Growing up in today's society is a much more difficult and complicated task than it was in previous times. Our young Orthodox Christian children are constantly being exposed to negative and destructive influences. If these influences are not challenged, they can, and will, define who our young people will become. Innocence is slipping away at an alarmingly early age. For these reasons, the positive teachings and sacred traditions of our Orthodox Christian church must become a living presence in the lives of our children. This ministry to our young people is not an option, but a necessity.
Investing in our parish youth is investing both for the present and future of our Church. Our children are the ones that will continue, hopefully, what they now learn about the Faith and Church in the future. Without them there is no future for the parish. They are the future priests, parish council members, choir members, cantors, church school teachers, youth directors, etc. To ignore them and their needs is a grave mistake.
When the parish council prepares the annual budget of the parish it must consider seriously to provide the necessary funds for the Youth Ministry of our parish. For years the budget only provided a token financial support for all the parish ministries i.e., $500.00. The Youth Advisers, parents and children raised their own funds for years so as not to burden further the church treasury. However, it is now time for us to truly make a strong commitment to our young people and support them financially and morally.
Man is both a spiritual and physical being. Unfortunately this spiritual reality is not always expressed in the material world. In order to be true to oneself and to the Orthodox Christian Faith, young people should strive to exemplify the teaching of the Church. We are witnessing our faith when we are living as Christ taught us to live, letting Christ shine in all that we do to those around us. This is the true meaning of witness.
Too often, we look at our young people and wonder how we can help them. We need to inspire them toward a life of service. How can our children use their God-given gifts for service to the needy and service to those less fortunate? How can they be the people of God who respond to His call in St. Matthew 25:31-46, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in hospitals, nursing facilities, etc. Responding to these human needs is the true meaning of diakonia (service).
"When we teach our children to be good, to be gentle, to be forgiving, to be generous, to love their fellow men...we install virtue in their souls, and reveal the image of God within them". (St. John Chrysostom).
Thank you for your understanding, support and personal prayers.
With agape in Christ,