A Life Well Lived – In the New Year

by Fr. Shay Cullen

Just before Christmas, I received a text message, the best gift one could imagine from Mina and Sheila, Preda Foundation jail rescue workers – “Two more children released from jail, bringing them home”. A few days later, another Christmas gift – “good news, cases against Jonathan and Darryl dismissed! Hurray! – Joan”.

Joan, a Preda paralegal worker has succeeded in getting dozens of charges against children dismissed with the help of compassionate judges. Joan is living out her dream and fulfilling her ideals in life as an advocate for children’s rights. She is a very dedicated and effective paralegal officer. Together with her court work, she is studying evening college courses striving for higher qualification.

Mina and Shiela likewise are fulfilling their ideals and mission in life and studying at night too. They are helping to get imprisoned teenagers released to the Preda Children’s Homes where they will have a better life with a new found self-respect, and being drawn closer to God.

The happiest thing in the lives of these idealistic young professionals helping troubled youth is that their idealism is highly motivated by their spirituality. They are inspired by the example and message of Jesus of Nazareth and have taken on a mission in life based on the ideals that he shared with the world.

The New Year is a time to think about living a more meaningful goal-driven life, a life with greater purpose and mission. We can be encouraged and inspired by the example of many good people, retirees, business people and young professionals and artists who are deeply involved in charitable work helping the sick, the needy and the downtrodden, and lifting them up and restoring their dignity. All of us can be inspired by the thousands of committed missionaries whose heroic and unsung lives are spent imitating Christ and serving the victims of injustice and poverty.

But drawing young people of this next generation into a life of service and commitment based on Christian values is a real challenge. There are many competing alternative opportunities available and many distractions and temptations of the modern world that draws them away. There is too disillusionment with uninspiring traditional religious practice and church scandals. We need new ways to inspire and attract young people to mission. One effective way is by inviting them to join on-going challenging apostolate and social action projects as apprentices. By engaging them in mission from the start of their training, they become apprentices of Christ. Their youthful idealism, urgently striving for expression and action, is satisfied, then later with experience, when it is challenged by the hardness of reality and disappointment, a maturing process begins.

A directed spirituality based on Gospel truths and human affirmation and encouragement is necessary to help them find their way and to keep them growing and coping with set-backs and new challenges.

This combination, a life of action and prayer, reflection and study, team work and affirmation is what gives trainees the courage and dedication to work daily for others. It is the daily contact with the needy, the imprisoned, the refugees and the downtrodden that inspires them to be more competent and effective, to study and learn and achieve.

During our reflective gospel group sessions with apprentices and staff, all learn from the life, practice and message of Christ. At Christmas, we ask especially why and how did he come into the world? Born as a poor deprived child? Yes! As one that was hunted by the politically powerful, because he was a danger to their corrupt regime? Yes! A baby in swaddling clothes marked for assassination? Yes! His parents had to flee abroad as migrants and asylum seekers? Yes! And what did he grow up to be?

A spiritual leader, a son of God and man, a champion of the downtrodden, one trusted and loved by the poor, the outcasts, the hungry and the sick? Yes! And much more, he was a prophetic thorn in the side of the authorities; he challenged the injustice of his times and gave his life for his friends. He is the inspiration of young people if they can only know him as he really was.

 

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