During my time working in youth ministry, I was blessed to meet many remarkable young people. However, one of my favorites was a teen who I’ll call “J.”
J grew up in a low-income neighborhood across the street from the parish where I used to work. He is from a large mixed-status family*, the second youngest out of six siblings who all lived in a two bedroom apartment. But despite the difficult aspects of his upbringing, what made J stand out to me most were his innate leadership qualities. He was a natural servant leader, volunteering his time in youth ministry and the parish community food pantry, all while going to school and working a part-time job to support the household expenses. His ultimate goal was to become a social worker to help address the big issues that hurt neighborhoods like his. He loved his community and they loved him back.
During his senior year of high school, J achieved another remarkable milestone: he was going to be the first person in his family to attend college. However that also meant moving hundreds of miles away from his beloved community to continue pursuing his goals. It was a difficult choice for him; he said that it almost felt selfish to leave. But ultimately, he made the courageous decision to step out in faith, trusting in God’s plan for his community and for himself.
I think of J a lot in my current work at NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. When the opportunity to pass transformative and just federal policies is within reach, compromise can feel like a loss sometimes. But it’s helpful to step back and recognize that our vision is limited. A slowdown of our work is not a slowdown of Gospel justice. Thankfully, God always has a more expansive vision than we do, and we can trust in God’s ultimate Kin-dom.
*A mixed-status family is a family whose members include people with different citizenship or immigration statuses.
Colin is the Grassroots Outreach & Education Coordinator at NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice working to empower young people through faith-based advocacy resources and opportunities. He serves on the steering committee for IFTJ and taught classes at Georgetown University’s Capitol Applied Learning Lab. During free time, Colin leads trivia night at his local pub and explores post-Christian thoughts at Erēmos Journal.