August 24, 2007

How young people can grow in their faith

By John Shaughnessy

With seven years experience as the director of campus ministry at a Catholic high school, Mary Schaffner can offer valuable advice about how to help young people continue—and grow—in their faith during the transition from high school to college.

Her advice becomes even more personal because the fourth of her five children will be a freshman in college this school year.

Advice for students

Make the effort—“Continue to build on your relationships with God, others and yourself,” says Schaffner, the director of campus ministry at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis. “Make the effort to stay connected to a faith community.”

Remember the essence of your faith—“Church is not about being entertained. It’s not about great music. It’s about Jesus. It’s all about the Eucharist.”

Use your faith to help with your life choices—“Change the question from, ‘What do I want to do with my life?’ to ‘What does God want me to do with my life?’ ”

Advice for parents

Set the example—“You have to be leading an active faith life yourself.”

Help make the connection— Contact the Newman Center on campus or a parish near the college. Provide information about your son or daughter—their address, phone number,

e-mail address—and ask them to invite your child to church.

Trust your children—“We have to let our kids be who they are. They are not our children. They are God’s children. They may fail, but trust the Holy Spirit within them.”

Pray for your children— Schaffner remembers the advice that an older mother gave to a younger mother at a college orientation session. “She said, ‘You have a choice when your kids go away to school. You can pray or you can worry. Which do you think works better?’ ” †


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