April 17, 2020

Priest-coach advises high school students to be game changers

By John Shaughnessy

Tears filled the eyes of Father Jonathan Meyer as he talked to the high school students.

The pastor of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County knows the disappointment and even the pain that many teenagers are experiencing since the April 2 announcement by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb that school buildings throughout the state would be closed through the end of the 2019-20 academic year.

As a track and cross country coach at East Central High School in St. Leon, Father Meyer has come to know many of the students there, and he knows the loss they are experiencing by not being able to participate in spring sports, theater productions and other activities—including just being able to see their friends and classmates.

So Father Meyer set up a video talk with them to share his thoughts and advice about dealing with the disappointment and making the most of the reality they face.

While his talk is directed toward the Trojans of East Central, it’s a message that also has meaning for high school students across the archdiocese and the state. Here are some edited versions of the main points of his talk.

Cling to what you know, who are you

“First and foremost, be not afraid,” Father Meyer counseled. “This is an hour when there is a lot of fear—fear of sickness, fear of the unknowns. The more there is uncertainty in our lives, the more there is anxiety. And the more you take away the uncertainty, the more that there is peace.

“You need to name the things you know. You know that you are loved. You know that you are alive. You know you have gifts and talents and abilities. You know that there are teachers and coaches that are mourning right now over your loss. Cling to what you know. Cling to who you are. No one can take that away from you.”

Be creative

“God didn’t give you talents and abilities to bury them in darkness, in depression, in doubt, in fear. God gave you your talents and abilities so you can use them and to shine. You need to be like him. You need to be creative. Allow your imagination to say, ‘How can I use these gifts? How can I use these talents?’ ”

Be a game changer

“Sure there are experiences you may never have now. But there are all the more experiences and possibilities that can happen. And the game changer in life is what we do with our obstacles, what we do with our struggles. You have to admit that where you are right now is not what you wanted. But you need to get back up.

“Those who give up never win. But those who choose to put the obstacles and struggles behind them, those are the ones [who succeed]. Choose to get up. You’ve done it before. Your perseverance, your hard work and your diligence are real.”

Share your thoughts with someone

“I need you to talk to people. I need you to talk to your mom and dad. I need you to share with them what’s going on inside. If you can’t do it with them, get a hold of a teacher, a fellow athlete, a coach, a mentor, a friend, a neighbor, a grandparent.

“You can’t do this alone. You need to surround yourself with people who will encourage you. Don’t surround yourself with negative people. They are not the people you need to hear.”

Reach out to others

“You’ve got to be aware of your classmates. You’ve got to reach out to them. I particularly want you to think of the kids in your school who are really quiet. You can change their life. You can possibly save their life by reaching out to them.

“In this dark hour, we need heroes, and that’s what you’re called to be. You know that some of your classmates don’t like being at home. Their mom or dad may be an alcoholic. There might be abuse. Who’s going to be their friend right now? The strength and the character and the virtue you have, they need now more than ever.”

Remember who God has called you to be

“You are called to be light. You are not called to be darkness. You are called to be hope. You are not called to be despair. You are called to be life. You are not called to be death. And you are called to do it today. Not tomorrow. Not next week. You’re called to do it now.

“Everything we have taught you as teachers, as coaches, as guidance counselors, as administrators, as staff, it all comes to right now. This is the test. Who are you? Who are you inside? And who will you be to your neighbor?”
 

(View Father Meyer’s video talk, at bit.ly/PriestCoach.) †

 

Related story: High school seniors turn to God as pandemic ends their last spring together

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