The teenagers and mentors are very excited about the next six weeks. They have just completed their first week of work! Thanks to some generous donors, including several people from our parish who attended our special “Padrinos” event last March, as well as support and planning by the parish staff, we are able to provide work for more than 40 teenagers this summer. Some teenage crews are cleaning streets, while others are working with children in summer programs. Still others are pursuing jobs with employers who are willing to mentor the teenagers.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak to friend who provided me with work responsibilities when I was a teenager. Fr. Paul Baca was my pastor and I am fortunate to still be able to spend time with him once-in-a-while. He always has a perspective that brings insight for me and this visit was no different. I told him about all the youth we are trying to provide with a work experience this summer. He said, “What your parish is doing is really important. I remember when I washed dishes as a young man. I cleaned bathrooms and I worked with a sense that my work was valuable. The work brought me a sense of dignity – it raised my self esteem. I was not paid a lot but in the end the work itself was most important. Working prepared me for what I needed to face in life – it helped me appreciate others, open my eyes to a bigger world, and taught me important life lessons.”
After talking to Fr. Baca, I reflected on the value of work for our young people. Our church and neighborhood is really much healthier when we engage our young people with an experience of work. We create an opportunity for them to reflect on their relationship to the world through their experience of working. Work teaches our young people to value others as well as themselves. Work is one of those foundations of peace and justice …so much needed in our community.
We are grateful for all those young people who are working. I thank God for their determination, their patience to learn and the dignity they bring to all of us by their efforts.
Fr. Bruce Wellems, CMF