Church youth groups provide a safe place where teens can explore their faith, learn from each other and help the greater community. High school students at St. Gregory Byzantine Church in Upper St. Clair, a parish of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, come together each week and put their faith in action through service to the community.
“For today’s teenagers, life in high school is hard. Thanks to electronics and the internet, they have access to so many pressures, messages and distractions,” said Father Valerian Michlik of St. Gregory Byzantine Catholic Church. “Our youth group provides teens an opportunity to get away from those distractions and actively participate in their community by getting to know and help others they may not otherwise meet.”
On a regular basis, the teens prepare and serve food to those in need in the South Side of Pittsburgh. After the meal, the teens sit and talk with those they served. This fellowship and dialogue is as important as the meal itself.
The youth group at St. Gregory’s offer an example of faith in action, “If they chose to, these teenagers could easily go their whole lives without seeing poverty. But here they face it head on and look for ways to help. The youth group shows us that what we do outside of the church doors is crucially important. They remind me of Pope Francis’s example of serving the entire community, regardless of faith,” said Father Valerian.
Throughout the year, the youth group also collects clothing and toiletries for women at the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, a resource for victims of domestic violence and their children. The teens also collect school supplies and clothing for the Southwood Residential Treatment Facility for young men.
The youth group at St. Gregory parish not only serves the homeless, but also the homebound. They assemble Easter baskets and write holiday cards to shut-ins and nursing home residents of their community. The group heard from one elderly man after he received a Valentine ’s Day card who said it was the first card he’d received in decades. He was moved to tears by the group’s kindness and service.
The youth group at St. Gregory Byzantine Church in Upper St. Clair is just one example of these groups at the more than 1,000 Catholic parishes across the state.