Earlier this month, I was blessed to have traveled to the beautiful South African cities of Durban and Cape Town to pray with and train parishes interested in implementing Life Teen, as well those that have been a part of the Life Teen family for several years. What an amazing experience!
During my visit, I had the privilege of spending time with some wonderful teens that had come from all over the area to worship Christ at an XLT hosted by the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Pinetown. I was awed and inspired by their reverence in front of the Blessed Sacrament and their enthusiastic participation in worship. Their love for the Eucharist was obvious and in that it was clear that these young people are truly supported by their parishes through the faithful dedication of the priests, youth ministers, Core Members and talented musicians walking with the teens on their faith journey.
In addition to the universal challenges of being a teenager, many of the teens and young adults I spoke with face the additional challenges of living in areas with high crime and unemployment rates along with the highest rate of HIV infection in South Africa. Held among the adults who serve these youth was the unanimous sentiment that despite these challenges, leading teens closer to Christ and helping them understand the relevancy of the Gospel message to their lives is of utmost importance.
Despite these hardships, I was inspired by the joy, hope, and hospitality of everyone I met. There was never a shortage of volunteers to help me spot a monkey, which was a top priority during my visit (after sharing the love Christ, of course). Even in the township settlements of Cape Town where tin, cardboard and wood pass as housing for over ½ million people, people were serving and being served with joy.
I was blessed by the wonderful family who hosted me. I was inspired by the story of their 6 children, 4 of whom have vocations to the religious life, as well as their delightful 16-year-old and her friends who took time from her birthday celebration to demonstrate Zulu dancing for me. I was moved to tears by the breathtaking singing and devout worship of the Zulu Mass that I attended. I was encouraged by the participants in the Life Teen training who were so eager to better serve teens.
I met wonderful, holy priests and nuns who truly were advocates for their teens. One priest, in addition to being pastor at his own parish, reaches even more teens by serving on the Core Team of another! I was graciously received by the Archbishop of Cape Town at his home where I was able to share with him the mission of Life Teen. I was shown radical hospitality by my hosts in both cities, the youth minister at our host parish, her entire family, the amazing Core Team, parish and diocesan personnel. I owe a debt of gratitude to the dedicated youth minster and priest in Cape Town who hauled me around, acted as tour guide, shared their ministry with me and made sure that I saw a monkey before I left the country.
God is doing amazing things in South Africa and I am truly grateful and blessed to have had the opportunity to be a witness to all that is happening and to meet and pray with some really awesome people. Please keep the South African teens and those that serve them in your prayers!
And about the robots… that’s what traffic signals are called in South Africa! Who knew?