As parishioner Maureen Strange knows, the middle school years are a crucial time for our Catholic youth. Maureen first got involved with our youth ministries when her own children were younger — for the past five years, she has been helping with the Middle School Ancora program for our fifth through eighth-grade students.
“I think parents should encourage their kids to join because this is such a crucial age group,” Maureen says. “The kids are starting to spend time away from parents a bit and might be getting on social media. We need to make sure they have the tools they need to be strong in their faith, and able to speak up when they see something that is not acceptable.”
The group meets on Sunday afternoons from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the parish. Each meeting is a little different, but it starts with a student-led prayer. Sometimes, there are also discussions about current topics. Other times, the students participate in a board game day. The purpose of Middle School Ancora is to help foster relationships outside of the classrooms and to provide a place where students can build friendships based on their faith.
“We try to help them understand that our faith is more than a checklist of things we are supposed to do, such as go to Mass on Sundays, go to Confession, and say your prayers,” Maureen says. “It is all of those things, but also so much more. It is about service to others, continual catechesis, developing relationships with people of all ages who share the same beliefs, so that when life does get tough they know Who they can depend on to help them through those times.”
In the past, the group has participated in a variety of activities, such as a food booth at the community Christmas fair, wrapping presents at Jubilee Christmas, selling hot chocolate and coffee at the Christmas parade, and visiting local nursing homes. This year, the group looks forward to helping at Feed My Sheep, volunteering at the local animal shelter, and building a float for the Christmas parade.
“I have seen so much growth in these students,” Maureen says. “They welcome new members and they have ideas of how they want to volunteer in the community. We have some really fruitful discussions at our meetings on subjects of bullying, peer pressure, and who our neighbors are. They come from different backgrounds, and all of their home lives are different. They need a place where they feel equal, and are not afraid to speak their minds and give their opinions on subjects.”
Middle School Ancora is always looking for more volunteers. Volunteers do not need to commit to every week, so there is flexibility with scheduling. The group could also use volunteers to help with fundraising ideas and activities for the kids.
If you have questions or would like to get involved, contact Maureen Strange at 812-617-5754 or the parish office at 812-254-2883.