I remember Mrs. Sorensen. She was an ordinary housewife, a member of the small church my family attended, and most importantly to me, she was my Fifth Grade Sunday School Teacher. Mrs. Sorensen’s job was to teach us about Jesus, and although she was no scholar, she dove into her duty with a simple and earnest style. She was never late, she was never absent, and she was always prepared.
Our class was small, and square footage at the church was at a premium, so we met in the pastor’s front parlor. I particularly remember one morning, after telling us the story of Jesus calling his apostles, how she appealed to our imagination. “Look at the door!” Obediently, we all turned to look. “Imagine it! Just imagine it! What if Jesus walked through that door right now and asked you to follow him. What would that feel like?”
I did imagine it. I imagined it so well, I can remember now what the weather was like that day and what the door looked like. Mrs. Sorensen knew Jesus, and she wanted us to know Jesus, and she did her level best to get a bunch of squirmy fifth graders to understand what she was talking about. And it worked! Not because of her finely-honed catechetical technique: it worked because she genuinely cared about us, and we knew she cared. She proved it by showing up every Sunday.
The other day I asked one of our sisters, Sr. Nancy, what is it about the MSBT spirit that motivates her the most. She immediately quoted our founder, “Save the child, and you save all!” Father Judge felt heartsick when he visited remote missions and encountered children who did not even know how to sign themselves with the Cross. He knew the Catholic Faith would fade away by neglect if no one made the effort to teach it.
Sr. Nancy has been involved in youth ministry most of her adult life. She knows what Father Judge knew, that they will never know who Jesus is if no one teaches them, and in so many homes and so many places, no one is. And the teaching that is needed is not mere instruction. The teaching that works, that lasts, is teaching that flows from a caring relationship, grounded in a caring community of faith.
Catholic youth are at risk of losing their faith. So many of them are the “spiritually abandoned” we MSBT are called to serve. In fact, every faith-filled Catholic has an obligation to pass on the Faith in some way. Maybe simply by getting to know and to genuinely care about a child or a teen in the context of a faith community, you will be remembered decades later the way I still remember Mrs. Sorensen.
“Where is the hope to come from? It is to come from you, to come from an enlightened laity, a laity enforced with a missionary spirit, enforced with a Catholic spirit. Think of those whom you could bring under your influence, if you wish to. Think of the attractive power of a good woman, a good man. It is tremendous.” ~ Father Judge
Blog writer Sr. Deborah Wilson, MSBT is currently serving on the MSBT General Council in Philadelphia, PA.