I’ll never forget one class I had with Elena Orozco. Elena is a consecrated woman who, among other things, is a professor at Mater Ecclesiae College. There she teaches on two of the subjects of her expertise: adolescents and spiritual guidance. This particular class was on the former. She was telling us how we need to “think big” in working with youth. Their enthusiasm and idealism will push them to really make a difference in the world, she explained.
Then she stopped for a moment.
She looked at us long and hard, and we, one by one, started looking up from our notes, a little confused.
Finally, she asked us if we were convinced that young people could actually change the world. Some of us nodded, others only blinked perplexedly. “Come on!” she exclaimed, “You’re all going to be working with adolescents at some point. If you don’t believe this, you’d better fix that before you finish this class. I believe it. I’ve seen it myself in the youth I’ve worked with. If you believe they can change the world, they can tell and they’ll rise to the challenge.” My pride was officially pricked. From then on, I’ve tried to make her conviction my own.
Her challenge still rings in my ears three years later. I’d like to think I took her up on it, but I guess my apostolic work will decide that. I can still see her standing in front of my class whenever I work on apostolic projects with girls in Challenge or talk with them one-on-one.
There’s a story that you may have heard. Once upon a time, only about 15 years ago or so, there was a girl who was a part of ECyD. (you could say that ECyD is the soul of Challenge or any program that Regnum Christi has for young people) Well, this girl had the privilege to be in St. Peter’s Square one day as John Paul II was passing by. As he passed, the girl called out, “Holy Father! I’m in ECyD!” The Pope stopped, turned and looked the girl straight in the eye and said, “ECyD will change the world.”
I get goosebumps every time I think of that story. And once I told it to the Challenge girls I worked with in Vermont. One of the girls at the meeting was named Michaela and she had never been to Challenge before, let alone heard of ECyD. In the moment, I thought the story would be lost on her, since I hadn’t explained anything.
Much to my surprise, Michaela’s mom emailed me two days later. She told me how, after the meeting, Michaela had a sleepover with one of her friends. She overheard Michaela telling her friend the story that “CCYD” would change the world and smiled to herself. That night, as she said goodnight to the two girls, Michaela piped up, “Mom, do you have the president’s address?”
“What makes you ask that?” her mother responded.
“Well, we both wrote letters to the president telling him to outlaw abortion. Can you send them to him?”
There’s also a girl in the Mundelein Challenge club who’s on a mission to save the world. Her name is Kalli. If the Challenge club isn’t working on an apostolic project, Kalli will find one herself. Her most recent endeavor is collecting school supplies for children in Africa. She has four huge boxes full.
These are only a few examples of the initiative and enterprising spirit of young people. They have the world at their feet and they want to conquer it. They dream of being a hero, at least to some one, but they may not know that they hold the key to our future. I have a proposal: tell a teen today that they can change the world and see what happens.