by Joe Simms, Parishioner
At a typical Sunday evening CALLED gathering, one is likely to see any number of things going on:
- Young people making cards for victims of human trafficking or blankets for people living in shelters
- A discussion about how to utilize one's personal strengths to serve God (excitingly, the Living Your Strengths program is coming to CALLED in April!)
- A lively, laughter-filled game of Jumbo Jenga
- Question-and-answer sessions on faith or self-worth
- A bonfire, with plenty of s'mores and hot dogs. (After all, there's ALWAYS FOOD, as the bulletin announcements point out!)
One teen chuckles at the memory of a kid trying to roast a marshmallow and a hot dog on the same stick at the same time. Another recalls the hilarity of a group leader spewing out Napolean Dynamite lines and then going into Napoleon's dance. Another has a fond memory of sitting down with one of the leaders and hearing a touching story that she will never forget.
CALLED is a program open to all high school and college age people (not just Catholics) who want to participate in a mix of service projects, discussions, and presentations. They don't have to sign up in advance or commit to coming to every session, and they are encouraged to bring along friends. They meet twice a month on Sunday from 6:00-7:30 PM at St. Mary's Church.
The adult leaders of this special time and place call it "a regular refuge from the stresses that our young people face--a place to be calm and connected with their faith and each other."
What are CALLED participants saying?
Tony Neubeck, 13, an eighth-grade student at Mahtomedi Middle School, enjoys CALLED because it is "a place to make friends who share the same beliefs as me. We learn how to put God first in life." Tony describes a favorite activity in which the group was visited by some college-age leaders who spoke about how they kept God in their lives. The high school students were free to ask questions of the visitors.
Taylor Bangert, 15, who is in ninth grade at Centennial High School, also enjoys being a part of the goings-on. She says, "CALLED gave me a group of people who I feel comfortable talking to and sharing stories with." Although there can be all different kinds of things going on on a given Sunday evening, the thing Taylor likes best is quite simple: "My favorite activity has just been sitting around a table with all my friends at CALLED, and sharing fun stories."
Megan Neubeck, 15, is a ninth-grade student at Mahtomedi High School. CALLED, she says, "gives me a place to go and hang out with other kids that share the same views as me." Like many other participants, Megan enjoyed a speaker who came and gave advice about how to stay in the faith through college. Megan also enjoyed an activity in which the young people helped out the Dorothy Day Center by making placemats to be used when the center provides food for those in need. "It's really fun being able to color and be creative," she says, "but we are also helping out."
What are CALLED leaders saying?
Charlie Wagner and Erin Bocock are the two young adults who lead the gatherings (they try to avoid referring to them as "meetings").
Charlie is a 2016 graduate of White Bear Lake Area High School. As a CALLED leader, he particularly enjoys "watching everyone interact together and demonstrate respect for each other." He feels that he personally has benefited from his time with the group. "I have been recognized for the talents and gifts I have. I have greater confidence in my faith and more assurance that my faith is valuable. As I make choices and decisions, my faith is now a larger part of those choices."
Erin is a 2016 graduate of the University of St. Thomas. While in college, she belonged to an on-campus group much like the group she would one day help to start up at St. Mary's. "While I was part of this group," Erin explains, "I really felt like my faith life took off. Faith became a part of my everyday life, and I had a better understanding of my faith." The opportunity to be part of a faith-based college group enabled Erin to "grow in faith by surrounding myself with others on similar--or sometimes different--faith journeys." After graduation, Erin kept looking for ways to maintain a connection to her faith. Taking part in the formation of the St. Mary's CALLED group was a perfect fit.
As facilitator for the gatherings, Erin likes the opportunity to share her gifts. Another benefit, she adds, is "watching participants bond with each other, with their faith as a catalyst." Erin works to make the CALLED gatherings fun and welcoming. "I like to help people see that church is somewhere you want to be, not somewhere you have to be!"
What are CALLED parents saying?
Peggy Neubeck, the mother of a couple of teenage CALLED participants, is also an adult leader of the group, but takes a more behind-the-scenes role on Sunday evenings. In fact, watching Erin and Charlie lead the group is one of the things she most enjoys.
Returning to St. Mary's after having been in a different parish for several years, Peggy felt a void in what the church had to offer high school students. "I felt it was very important to have a place for young people after they finished Confirmation--something that would keep them connected to their Catholic faith," she explains.
Peggy and Erin both took part in the St. Mary's Workcamp trip in the summer of 2016. While there, Peggy talked about this need to keep young people engaged and help them grow in their faith. Erin said, "We need to talk"--and from there, CALLED was born. The first gathering was held in September 2016.
"Confirmation is the beginning of your faith life, not the end," says Peggy, and that is why she is such a big supporter of CALLED. "Seeing the bonds of trust that are starting to build among the attendees" has been very gratifying for her, she says.
Young people, JOIN US!
"We want more young people to join us! It's a great opportunity to connect and create a greater connection to your faith," say the adults who organize and implement the program. "CALLED is a place where everyone belongs. All are welcome, regardless of where you are on your own faith journey. Parents: encourage your children to attend!"
To join, simply show up on Sunday!! No registration is required. To get more info on upcoming fun at CALLED join the email list by contacting Peggy Neubeck at firstname.lastname@example.org. CALLED will be exploring the Living Your Strengths program in April, so let Peggy know if you want to participate in this fun and enriching experience!