July 11, 2008


Let’s applaud our young people making a difference in society

Remember the name Jennifer Sekar.

It should be in the news between now and the fall, and for good reason.

Jennifer is a 13-year-old resident of Fremont, Calif., who is bringing much-needed awareness to the ongoing pollution problem caused by automobiles.

Her goal? To get 1 million people to not drive their vehicles on Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, who, as we know, was a strong advocate of caring for the Earth.

Jennifer said keeping that many drivers off the road for one day will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10,000 tons.

Jennifer’s idea, called “A Day of Rest,” got off the ground in May and is gaining momentum on the Web site www.adayofrest.org.

On the site, Jennifer is collecting online pledges, not for money, but for a promise to not drive any powered vehicle on Oct. 4 and to spend the day with family and friends.

“You can always be without a car,” Jennifer said in a story recently shared by Catholic News Service, “but without family and friends, you can’t really do much. ‘A Day of Rest’ would be a really good time to strengthen people’s friendships and bonds with their families.”

Not surprisingly, Jennifer’s home parish, St. Joseph Parish in Fremont, and the pastor, Msgr. Manuel Simas, have jumped on the publicity bandwagon and are including information about the no-driving day in the bulletin and in parish announcements.

Jennifer also plans to speak about the project at several Masses during the summer.

In today’s world, where family-and-friends time seems to end up on the backburner more than most of us would care to admit, we commend the teenager for her words of wisdom and commitment to such a worthwhile endeavor.

Need more proof that young people are eager to make a difference in today’s world?

We can cite examples here at home, too.

In this week’s issue of The Criterion, we feature two stories of archdiocesan youths using their valuable time for the betterment of the community.

On page 8, we read about members of St. Vincent de Paul Parish’s youth group in Shelby County and the labor they provided for the installation of the parish’s new Stations of the Cross path.

Youth group member Chris Haunert took a lead on the project, and he and his father, Larry, worked together to make the stations’ crosses in their garage. If that isn’t quality family time spent together, then we don’t know what is.

Dave Gehrich, the parish’s coordinator of youth ministry, said the project will have lasting effects since the entire youth group worked together to bring the effort to completion.

“The kids can always come back and say, ‘I was a part of this,’” Gehrich said.

On page 9, we read about the 70 archdiocesan youths who participated in Homeland Mission 2008.

This year’s Homeland Mission was all about the teenagers going out of their comfort zone to experience the “real world.”

For the young people, that involved a week of tasks that ranged from helping flood victims in central Indiana to distributing lunches to homeless people in Indianapolis.

Those efforts, wrote Sarah Leonard, a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish and a senior at Cathedral High School, both in Indianapolis, tested the teenagers’ patience and their previous perceptions of what they believed the real world to be.

As these young people are learning this summer, a big part of the “real world” is about caring for the environment, building community and helping others.

As people of faith charged to do the same, may we not shy away from the challenge of emulating their commitment.

— Mike Krokos

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