October 20, 2006

St. Theodora Guérin Keepsake Edition

Young people encouraged to follow St. Theodora’s example

Youth Mass at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods

Photo caption: Father Jonathan Meyer, archdiocesan director of youth and young adult ministry, proclaims the Gospel during the youth Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods on Oct. 15.

By Katie Berger

Special to The Criterion

SAINT MARY OF THE WOODS—The fruits of St. Theodora Guérin’s tireless work for Catholic education in Indiana became clear on Oct. 15 as 300 high school youths and family members gathered for Mass and a tour of the grounds at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods on the day of St. Theodora’s canonization.

The afternoon was a way to bring archdiocesan young people together to take part in this historic day, said Annette “Mickey” Lentz, executive director of the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education and Faith Formation.

“Our youth are our future Church, and we have to get them aware of the greatness that has gone before us, and this was the way to do that,” she said.

Lentz, a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, said she always knew of Mother Theodore Guérin and referred to her as a “woman for all ages.” She said her canonization comes at a time “when the country is most in need and the diocese can be something for others.”

In his homily, Father Jonathan Meyer, archdiocesan director of youth and young adult ministry, called St. Theodora a woman of “P.E.P.” That P.E.P.—providence, evangelization and perseverance—is evidenced in various aspects of her life.

From her trust in God’s will to her persistence in answering the call to religious life and submitting herself to the difficult task of catechizing a large region, she is a model for young people, he said.

“She is an example to us of a woman who dedicated her whole life to Jesus Christ,” said Father Meyer, who also serves as associate pastor of St. Luke Parish in Indianapolis. “How wonderful it is for all of us as young people to answer that same call, to answer that same mission, to share the message of Jesus Christ to the world.”

The youth Mass brought participation from across the archdiocese, including many young people who attend Catholic school or parish religious education programs. Each of the archdiocese’s 11 deaneries had representatives to carry banners for the entrance procession. Leaders from the Archdiocesan Youth Council, who served in all the liturgical ministries, chose the readings and wrote petitions.

Mandy Maher, who assists in youth ministry at St. Mary-of-the-Woods Parish, only had to travel a short distance to take part in the afternoon since her parish is within walking distance of the campus.

She noted that the youth Mass was an opportunity for young people to see a bigger picture of the Church. “I think it was important for our youth to see the Catholic presence around the state.”

Maher also hopes St. Theodora’s example will lead youths deeper into the life of faith. “She had a great devotion to the Eucharist. I hope that the youth can feel her presence and have a greater respect for the Eucharist.”

For those who had a longer drive to the Mass, the archdiocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry sent compact discs out prior to the weekend for youths to listen to on the way. The CD included short narratives on the life of Mother Theodore, songs that were to be used at Mass, a litany and recitation of the rosary. The bulk of the CD’s work came from Susan Jansen, a familiar face to many Indianapolis South Deanery parishioners, and her company, Lily Publishing.

Matthew Duncan, a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany, was among the participants who had a longer journey. He called the canonization a “spiritual landmark” for Indiana which, he said, made the long trip worth it. “I believe that she is easy to relate to,” he said of St. Theodora. ”She is a great role model of holiness.

“I hope that I can be a pioneer and take the road less traveled,” he added.

Friends Kelsey Monahan and Matt Yazge, both seniors at Terre Haute South High School, came together to celebrate and honor their local saint.

Monahan, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Terre Haute, said she felt honored that so many sets of eyes were focused on her city. “I think it’s amazing how big Terre Haute, Indiana, is at this moment,” Monahan said. “It gives me a lot of hope that someone from my hometown is a saint.”

Yazge, who attends a Greek Orthodox Church, felt that St. Theodora’s impact extends beyond faith denominations. “Her example is one that any person can follow,” he said. “Even for people who aren’t Catholic, Mother Theodore definitely led an amazing life.”

Sarah Watson, principal of St. Gabriel the Archangel School in Indianapolis and coordinator of the Archdiocesan Youth Council, said she was impressed by the effect that one person had on so many lives.

“She didn’t ask to have this impact,” Watson said. “She was just living the life she was called to live.”

Watson said that just as St. Theodora impacted numerous lives around the world, so too could youth do the same if they followed her approach to life.

“If we all just live the life we’re called to live, maybe we don’t realize the hundreds and thousands of people we’re impacting on a daily basis,” she said.

“It is you who are the Church now. It’s you who will bring Christ to the world,” Father Meyer told the young people. †

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