August 18, 2006


The summer of 2006: A time to build up the kingdom of God

It’s that time again. As school bells ring to mark the beginning of the 2006-07 academic year around central and southern Indiana, now seems like an appropriate time to reflect on how students spent their summer vacation.

It’s an assignment many students have already written or will write about as they take pencil or pen to paper in the coming days, but one most teachers and parents agree is worth documenting. So do we.

Sure, annual family vacations were certainly the norm for a lot of young people during the past few months. Quality family time is always encouraged as a way to build healthier relationships, but some of our youths also saw a need and reached out to strangers to lend a helping hand this summer.

While the torrid heat during the last month undoubtedly led many to pools, quarries and water parks for some welcome relief, others took the time to help their brothers and sisters in Christ.

We’ve shared several stories of such outreach in recent issues of The Criterion and in its online edition. Who can forget the 300 Catholic youths from across the country—including some from Indiana—who descended on New Albany in the southern part of the state for a week in July to participate in the Catholic Heart Workcamp? Their community service included doing much-needed painting at St. Elizabeth, the Catholic Charities pregnancy and adoption services agency there. These young people are to be commended for their outreach.

Or the nearly 100 teens who made a pilgrimage with Father Jonathan Meyer, archdiocesan director of youth and young adult ministry, to rebuild hurricane-damaged communities and lives in Mississippi last month? They, too, get excellent marks. For many of those teens, it was their second trip down south since hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged that part of the country last year.

Not to be outdone, other parish groups sent pilgrims that included youths to others parts of the battered Gulf Coast region to assist other brothers and sisters in need there. Their efforts are worth praising as well.

We know it’s a cliché you’ve heard before, but it’s worth repeating: These examples are only the tip of the iceberg. The list of young people from our community who made a difference in other people’s lives this summer, we realize, could go on and on.

In an era of the Internet, cell phones, pagers and iPODs, it’s refreshing to see young people who realize there are more important things in life than the latest technological craze. And in a society where “convenience” has become a buzzword, it’s reassuring to know there are youths who don’t fall into that “it’s all about me” trap. Instead, they step back, reflect on the values they’ve been taught and make helping others a priority.

But their lessons for us don’t end there.

Reflecting on the summer of 2006, here are a few other snapshots that shed light on today’s young people:

• We see youths who respect others, no matter what their situation in life.

• We see young people who are hungry to know more about and live their faith.

• We see examples of young people putting the Gospel values they’ve learned into action. They understand their unique mission to make Jesus Christ known and loved.

As parents, educators and fellow pilgrims on the journey, it excites us to see these lessons bear fruit.

What did the summer of 2006 teach us? That where most of today’s youth is concerned, their heart is in the right place.

And even more important, those young people get it when it comes to building up the body of Christ.

— Mike Krokos


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