‘Awake My Soul’ at Cor Jesu Academy stirs high school students’ faith

Setting aside homework, chatting on social media or other activities, about 85 high school students on Sept. 24 chose to kneel in front of the Blessed Sacrament, listened to faith stories of their peers and thanked God for His graces.

The teens attended "Awake My Soul," a praise and worship Adoration event at Cor Jesu Academy in south St. Louis County organized by Cor Jesu junior Maggie Feder.

Carol Bauer, director of campus ministry at Cor Jesu, described "Awake My Soul" as a Catholic worship experience "that's been made fresh and relevant for young people. It takes the ancient traditional Benediction and infuses it with the music and reflections that come straight from the young people."

A similar event, LIFT, was held at Cor Jesu two years ago in collaboration with St. Louis University High School.

"There's a real hunger for it," Bauer said, noting that many of the students have had similar experiences at the Steubenville St. Louis Mid-America Youth Conferences, which feature inspirational speakers, live music, Mass, Adoration and confession, and help teens grow in their intimacy with Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Feder, in a talk introducing the evening program, cited the mystery of the Eucharist and how questions about it are answered "not in my head alone but also in my heart." A short video that was played discussed eucharistic miracles, particularly one in 1996 in Buenos Aries. The video cited the "awesome miracle and sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist."

With the help of Jaime Gorza of TNCE Productions, contemporary Christian music recordings featured various artists, including Matt Maher, the recipient of multiple GMA awards for Christian music, including Male Vocalist of the Year in 2011 and Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year in 2012. Music videos were interspersed with peaceful moments of reflection.

Attendees came from more than a half dozen Catholic schools.

Matt Anderson, a sophomore at St. John Vianney High School and one of the presenters, encouraged the teens to seek help from time to time, someone to lean on. He gets strength from the example of St. Padre Pio, a Capuchin Franciscan priest known for having visible marks of the crucifixion.

"Awake My Soul" was a good way for the high school students to strengthen their faith and to come together as a community, Anderson said afterward.

Another speaker, a high school junior, said she has discussed her severe health problems with only a few friends and had to gather courage to speak. When she struggles, she relies on her faith and the reading from Isaiah 41:10: "Do not be afraid, for I am with you."

Andrew Mallon, a junior at Christian Brothers College High School, called the Adoration event "wonderful," especially with the participation of Father Chris Martin, vocations director of the archdiocese. He hopes that it is held again soon.

Julie Hickey, youth team coordinator at Marianist Retreat Center in Eureka, was one of a handful of adults there. "It was a very reverent, contemporary and powerful experience of the timeless, beautiful prayer of Adoration," Hickey said.

Students at Cor Jesu are encouraged to take part in alternative Catholic worship experiences as part of their theology classes, Cor Jesu's Bauer said. "Hopefully they'll seek out these experiences when they go to college, too," she said.

Feder worked with the campus ministries at other Catholic schools to enlist their participation. 

Catholic teens

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University interviewed teens about their religious faith in a national survey. A total of 1,609 respondents were interviewed (English and Spanish) in May and June 2012. Although all of the teens had Catholic parents or a Catholic parent, some didn't share this faith.

• Only three in four of teens interviewed self-identified as Catholic.

• Ninety-two percent of the teens with two Catholic parents self-identified their faith as Catholic. Only 55 percent of those with one Catholic parent self-identified their faith as Catholic.

• Sixteen percent indicated that they have only celebrated the Sacrament of Baptism.

• About one in four Catholic teens said they have never been enrolled in a Catholic school or a parish-based religious education program.

• Only 8 percent report their parents talk to them about religion daily and 20 percent say their parents do so at least once a week.

• Seventy-five percent say their faith is important to them. Only 9 percent say it is "the most important part of my life."

• Thirteen percent indicated regularly participating in retreats. Eight percent say they regularly participate in prayer groups, 7 percnt in eucharistic Adoration, and 7 percent in Bible study. A quarter said they had participated in a parish youth group at some point. Fifteen percent said they had been an altar server.

• Only 20 percent indicated that they read the Bible or pray with Scripture at least once a month. Six in ten say they "rarely or never" do this. Fourteen percent indicate they pray the Rosary at least monthly. At the same time, 71 percent say prayer is either "among the most important parts" of their lives (25 percent) or that it is "important, but so are many other areas of my life" (46 percnt).

• Sixty-seven percent of Catholic teens agree that "God is one with whom people can have a relationship." When presented with an "image of God" question, the teens were most likely to say (69 percent) the following description comes closest to their view: "God is a positive influence in the word that loves unconditionally, helping us in spite of our failings."


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