THERE are two types of teens: “party-philes” or extroverts who are always out with their peers, and the reclusive who would rather read in their room or go out on their own. You get the same types in religious behavior. Young people may either attend Mass and be active in Church activities in groups, or go for more personal and intimate relationship with Christ.

This manifestation of faith in the youth was discussed by Dr. Merton Strommen in “Transforming a Campus Into a Faith-Community” during the First National Convention of Campus Ministry last October 20-22 at the Westin Philippine Plaza.

According to Strommen, a Lutheran theologian and founder of the Youth and Family Institute of Augsburg College, majority of the youth recognize commitment with Christ as developing a personal relationship with Him, more than focusing on externalities. The youth express their faith in God not only in church activities and prayer vigils but by being aware of God’s presence and by communicating to Him like a buddy.

Strommen said today’s teenagers and twenty somethings have deeper understanding of their faith unlike before when they used to go to church unwillingly and without commitment. He said in the past, what compelled them to attend Mass was the pressure of society. Now, they already have the initiative to fulfill their Sunday obligations and discover the joys of experiencing their faith in a more intimate way.

“What we see in today’s youth is the heartful relationship with Jesus Christ, a commitment of the mind to understand His will, and a life of involvement seen in actions,” Strommen said.

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Strommen stressed that the youth is a major contributor in building faith communities. The success of school transformation lies in the hands of the critical mass of students, faculty, staff, and administrators who are united in a faith community.

Monsignor Vicente Bauson, campus ministry director of the Ministry for Youth Affairs of the Archdiocese of Manila, echoed the sentiment.

“The youth has so many fresh ideas. If only we can listen and connect to those fresh ideas, we can work out together so that we can become a full-grown faith community,” Bauson told the Varsitarian.

Like many other differences attributed to the generation gap, the youth and adult perceptions of faith vary. Often packaged as easy-going and nonchalant, the youth are misinterpreted as a crowd indifferent to God and religion. But Bauson said the youth just have their own way of expressing things which are not always compatible with those of adults. Personally discovering and experiencing God gives them a sense of fulfillment and a strong connection with Him.

Although teenagers and adults differ in their concept of faith, what unites them is their notion of living a Christ-centered life. This notion helps them have one vision for transforming schools into faith-communities. That vision is the ember that will initiate activities beneficial to the transformation.

“If activities are not anchored in a goal, you cannot bring it to a direction. There must be one vision, a compelling vision,” Bauson said.

In the symposium “Partnership of Church and Education,” former Department of Education secretary Dr. Edilberto de Jesus in a paper delivered by Dr. Erlinda Pefianco, explained that in order to conduct goal-oriented activities, the campus ministry should have a vision and be able to determine issues that affect the entire school. These concerns are usually constituted by family conflicts, personal struggles, and problems with the administration and the whole society. The campus ministry should make a stand on the issues and find ways on how to solve them.

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“The leaders of Campus Ministry should consider whether it can mobilize the resources required to make an impact on an issue,” de Jesus said.

Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P., the Chairman of the Commission on Higher Education, shared the same view in his talk “Animating a School Towards a Faith Response to Social Issues.” He pointed out that campus ministries must cope with the challenges. He added that a campus ministry should not focus on fund-raising but on conversion.

Through any way it is expressed, explicit or more personal, faith still remains an indispensable factor in building and maintaining communities inclined to God on campuses. Kathleen T. Valle and Ruby Anne R. Pascua

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