Pope St. John Paul II was passionate about the youth. He spent much of his papacy ministering to them and calling them closer to the Lord because he could see that they are not simply “the future of the Church” as many so often say. Rather, they are a vital part of the Church today!
“The Church needs your energies, your enthusiasm, your youthful ideals, in order to make the Gospel of Life penetrate the fabric of society,” he told them.
And it is that same spirit that Bear, the St. Francis Solanus Youth Ministry program, seeks to serve our sixth to 12th-grade youth.
In August, when Jane Ann accepted the job of Youth Minister, she quickly set to work to rebrand the group, calling it Bear in honor of St. Corbinian, who is one of the group’s patron Saints.
“Last year one of the groups chose St. Corbinian for their patron Saints, and soon after Father Arisman got a call from a Springfield, Illinois woman who had found a drawing of this Saint at a local thrift shop,” Jane Ann says. “The connection was clear. I was looking for a new easy to easy-to-remember name for the group, and the story of the bear that St. Corbinian commanded to carry his belongings came to mind. The name Bear was a natural fit. We want these youth to bear the love of Christ to the world, and the name Bear is a good reminder of this.”
“This ministry’s mission is to encourage our youth to bear the love of Christ to the world by creating friendships that facilitate knowledge of their Catholic faith,” says Jane Ann. “They come to the Bear meetings to have fun and create a connection with other children their age who also want to learn more about their Catholic faith, and then share that knowledge with others. This is a community of young people who grow in faith together, and therefore become confident in practicing Catholicism. At Bear, they celebrate the joys of their shared faith.”
The Petty family, Jonas, Jane Ann, and their four children, joined our parish in the spring of 2022, and almost immediately, Jane Ann, — wife and mother — got involved in the Youth Ministry. They moved from Jonas’ hometown of Pittsfield for their own children to have access to the Quincy Catholic school system.
“We wanted to belong to a parish that would offer our children opportunities to see that Christ is the center of everything we do,” Jane Ann says. “We have found that at St. Francis Solanus. Christ is the center of our lives. Everything we have comes from Him, and everything we do should point to Him.”
Jane Ann was previously involved in the Youth Ministry Program at St. Mary’s in Pittsfield, and therefore getting involved at our parish was an easy decision.
“I got involved because I want to ensure that there are opportunities for the youth of our parish to grow in faith. I highly encourage volunteering to work with our young people. Not only is it an opportunity to get to help the kids learn more about our faith, but more often than not they end up teaching me a thing or two!” It’s clear that this ministry has become a passion. “It is so rewarding to serve the youth in this way,” Jane Ann says. “Being able to build relationships with these kids, to help them see our faith as invaluable and exciting, and to allow them to have fun while learning more and deepening their faith has been so inspiring to me.”
Bear meets every Monday from 7:15 to 8:30 p.m. in the Parish Center, with a “Bonus Meeting” once a month on Sunday from noon until 1:30, again in the parish hall. Together they play games, visit with one another, and delve deeper into the study of the Catholic faith. Also, one member brings snacks to each meeting.
Bear also offers the youth the opportunity to serve our parish and the community and to participate in other activities such as attending local plays, participating in Adoration at Calvary Cemetery, and other youth-inspired activities.
“We strive to show the kids that growing in faith together is a fun and fulfilling endeavor,” Jane Ann says. “And that, yes they are young, but they can be the most influential of disciples.”
Bear meetings began the second week in September, and we encourage all the youth of our parish to consider participating. Joining in at any time is encouraged!
The ministry also welcomes more adult volunteers. Whether you are interested in volunteering each week, or occasionally, please contact Jane Ann for more information.
“It is so important for adults to help create a community like this for the kids,” Jane Ann says. “Serving the youth in this way offers them an example of what it means to get involved in building the Body of Christ. We are leading by example, and it is a blessing to do so.”
If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Liz Alonzo, Director of Religious Education, at 217-222-2898, ext. 108 or email@example.com.