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Links for Learners

by Lynn and Bob Gillen

September 1999

The following Links for Learners resource is offered to those who would like to use St. Anthony Messenger in an educational setting or for further study at home. This resource is prepared with high school students in mind, but can be adapted for other age groups. We will feature one article for further study each month. Back issues, beginning in May 1997, contain this resource. Up until December 1998 it was called a teacher's guide or classroom resource. Teachers with access to computer labs should encourage students to access the article directly online. Students have our permission to print out a copy of the article for classroom use. We encourage you to subscribe to the print edition of St. Anthony Messenger, where you will see all of the graphics, and more articles that you might find useful on a variety of topics. Please let us know how we can improve this service by sending feedback to

Please see our links disclaimer located at the end of this document.

Links for Learning

1. Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students

This month’s Links for Learners will support high school curriculum in:

    • Religion—Christian life-styles; Christian service; parish life
    • Social Studies—social and economic needs of society
    1. Finding Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants

Look for connections for use in programs such as:

Parish sacramental preparation programs and CCD classes; young adult discussion programs; seasonal discussion groups; RCIA programs.

Parents will also find this material useful in initiating discussion around the dinner table, in home study, at family activities or as preparation for parent/teacher meetings.

Understanding Basic Terms in This Month’s Article

Look for these key words and terms as you read the article. Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the Links for Learners.

At-risk children

Christian ministry

Economically disadvantaged community

Lay missionary

Ethic of Service

Marketable skills

Disadvantaged adults


Conflict resolution


Faith-based service

Understanding the diverse needs of our communities

AmeriCorps is one of many responses throughout American history to the needs of citizens in our cities. Service organizations addressed whatever problems were besieging people at the time. The Children's Aid Society of New York, formed in 1853, cared for orphaned children of immigrants crowding Eastern cities. Thousands of these children were homeless on urban streets, suffering from disease and crime. The Children's Aid Society created a program called the orphan trains, sending children west by railroad to be adopted by families who could give them a better life.

Other service organizations active now include the Peace Corps and Habitat for Humanity, both with an international scope, as well as urban programs such as the government's Head Start, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

Notre Dame-AmeriCorps is just one of many groups involved with the AmeriCorps program. Notre Dame-AmeriCorps volunteers focus on the importance of education. Sister Katherine, the executive director of Notre Dame-AmeriCorps, calls education the central issue of our day. Education and literacy lead to empowerment, independence, the self-esteem that comes with marketable life and work skills. Recently an article in a business magazine, Fast Company, highlighted a program teaching young people video production skills. Street-Level Youth Media provides urban youth with an opportunity to learn how to make and edit videos and to use computer graphics. Experience with the technology gives its teen participants a strong sense of self-esteem and personal security.

In discussion, compare the dedicated volunteers leading these programs with some of the people who receive so much media attention today: celebrities, financially successful business leaders, the young Internet millionaires, sports stars. Discuss the characteristics of an ethic of service as compared to an ethic of success and fame. Do both ethics have value? What do they each contribute to society?

An ethic of service to the community

An ethic of service to the community The volunteers in Notre Dame-AmeriCorps mirror the call to service that religious communities have lived for centuries in the Church. Women and men came together to live a Christian life in common, and responded to the needs of those around them. Religious groups dedicated themselves to feeding the poor, teaching the unlearned, caring for the sick and the homeless, preaching the gospel message and living lives of prayer. You're no doubt familiar with the Franciscan order, the Jesuits, the Benedictines, the Sisters of Notre Dame, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and other women's congregations.

The sisters and brothers who may teach in your high school, the religious who visit the elderly and ill in your parish, the religious educators who develop training and education programs on a diocesan level—all are women and men sharing a common life of serving their communities.

Many laypeople also have a long history of service. Earlier in this century, a woman named Dorothy Day co-founded the Catholic Worker movement. The group's principle focus was running urban soup kitchens for homeless men and women.

Today in our parishes, whether urban, suburban or rural, dedicated volunteers serve those in need. Married couples conduct programs and retreats for other married couples. The men and women who run teen retreats and teach religious education classes for children also serve. Deacons are ordained from among the parish communities to minister to the sacramental and formation needs of parishioners.

Discuss in your groups where you see Christians (and non-Christians) living in service for others in need. What programs exist in your parish and neighborhood? Who runs the programs? What do you think motivates them to serve? Discuss how teens may be able to develop a ministry of service. As an example, in the 1970s, a Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr, began a ministry of retreats for teens in the Cincinnati area. After several years, Father Rohr and the teens began to form small-group communities. As the teens matured into young adults, they became leaders in the program. They invited their parents and friends to become active with them. From this a lay service community called New Jerusalem was created. Some lived in dedicated service to others in need. Others in the groups prayed with and supported their fellow members. Married couples agreed to make financial contributions to provide a living for some members who worked entirely for the poor or the sick. All committed to some form of service-related Christian life together. Over 20 years later, New Jerusalem still thrives. What drives the group is a sense of stewardship, a commitment to caring for Christ's people. Stewardship can take the form of direct service, or for some it is simply a ministry of presence, just living a Christian life among others in a neighborhood. Participants are no longer limited to youth. As the original members have grown, many have stayed with the program.

Service is not limited to age

Where can you serve? As a teen, you may consider ministering at the weekly youth liturgy in your parish, serving as a lector, greeter, altar server or choir member. Do you have a musical talent you can use to help others pray and celebrate in song? You may dream about playing in your own rock band, but playing for a parish liturgy or activity can be just as rewarding. Do adults need babysitters while they attend liturgy or parish meetings? Can you volunteer for a peer-group counseling program at your school to help teens who have problems and are reluctant to talk to adults?

What are the needs of the elderly in your community? Although you yourself might feel awkward, a regular visit to an older person who lives nearby could mean all the world to that senior citizen. You may feel you have nothing in common with someone your grandparents' age, but a gentle conversation may reveal you both have fears and insecurities, joys and heartaches, a need for someone who cares. Loneliness is emotional starvation. Feed the spirit of a lonely person by sharing a bit of your own spirit. Or try reading the newspaper to someone who is losing her eyesight. Bring a nature video to someone who doesn't hear so well any more.

For adults, opportunities for service abound. For inspiration, see St. Anthony Messenger's online article on the Jesuit priest, Father Greg Boyle, who ministers to the youth gangs in East Los Angeles, California. Father Boyle believes it is not enough to tell our kids, "Say no to gangs. We adults need to "Say yes to kids." We need to affirm their lives, their value, their worth to our community. Where can you say yes to young people? Discuss this informally with your parish group. Perhaps you can find a suggestion to bring before your parish council for implementation.

For example, every August and September thousands of our young people go off to college, some for the first time, some with one year left before graduation and the adult world of work. Does your parish ever acknowledge these college students? What are their needs, fears, concerns? Could you celebrate an annual send-off liturgy for them, praying over them and even offering a social hour after the liturgy? Do you ever pray for them in the prayers of intercession during the liturgy? Can you exchange an e-mail message occasionally with a college student, making her feel like someone in her home parish cares?

How about all our teens who start or return to high school classes every fall? What does your parish do to let them know that we care about them, that we support their academic and extracurricular efforts?

What about volunteering even a few hours to assist with a Confirmation program? Our Confirmation programs often require its participants to act as ministers at the parish youth liturgy. But do we train the teens to do this? An adult who works as a flight attendant or a restaurant host could train the teens to handle themselves with confidence and poise as they minister in hospitality, for example.

Adults with experience in business may also offer a parish session every spring for young people looking for summer jobs. Train them in completing an application and writing a resume, in how to dress and what to expect in the culture of the business world.

Programs such as these not only service the needs of our community. They also offer opportunities for different generations to share their unique gifts and strengths with one another.

Further Print and Media Resources

The Long Loneliness, by Dorothy Day. The autobiography of the woman who co-founded the Catholic Worker movement.

Entertaining Angels: the Dorothy Day Story. A movie starring actress Moira Kelly as Dorothy Day.

Gravity and Grace: Insights into Christian Ministry, an audiotape by Richard Rohr, O.F.M. In this talk, Rohr invites us to touch others who are at the edge of our society.

Stewardship—Why the Parish Needs Your Time, Treasure and Talent, a Catholic Update by John Bookser Feister.

Jesus and Freedom, a Millennium Monthly by Brennan Hill. Discussion of Jesus' freedom from attachments so he could give himself entirely to others and take risks for truth and justice.

Creating Small Church Communities, by Arthur R. Baranowski. The book discusses a plan for restructuring the parish and renewing Catholic life.

The Orphan Trains: Placing Out in America, by Marilyn Holt. Available from online booksellers, or through an ancestry organization.

Research Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives.

The New York Times

The Los Angeles Times

Time Magazine



Pathfinder - Access site to a number of online news publications

The Associated Press

The Chicago Tribune

People magazine

The History Channel

The Miami Herald

The Close Up FoundationWashington, D.C.-based organization

ABC News

Channel One’s online resource

The Vatican

Links Disclaimer:

The links contained within this resource guide are functional at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links may become ineffective.

These links are provided solely as a convenience to you and not as an endorsement by St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications of the contents on such third-party Web sites. St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications is not responsible for the content of linked third-party sites and does not make any representations regarding the content or accuracy of materials on such third-party Web sites. If you decide to access linked third-party Web sites, you do so at your own risk.

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