By Tiffany Nguyen
Diocesan Committee for Youth Evangelization
“You’re Catholic?” Two seemingly simple words which, when put together and said in a judgmental tone, form such a question that rattles me to the core of my faithful heart. Attending public school as a Catholic student never used to be a problem for me; I was never phased by the knowledge that some students adhere to other religions and accepted any differences that surfaced. Recently, however, it has come to my attention that acceptance of Catholic faith-perhaps strong followings of religion in general – within public schools seems to be gradually fading into unease. It is saddening to consider the possibility of teenagers being ashamed of their faith and yet, too many times have I witnessed this very scene within a public-school setting.
When asked a participatory question about Catholic identity within my first period class, my Human Geography instructor witnessed a wave of “tension and uncertainty” that engulfed the classroom. I recognized that my peers of whom I knew to be Catholic hesitated in raising their hands and at the time, did not understand the reasoning behind such doubt in identifying one’s faith. It is clear now that teenagers, especially those within an environment lacking a strong foundational acceptance in Catholic faith, become hyperaware of what fellow classmates might assume about them after discovering their religious values.
This generation is in desperate need of the understanding that one’s faith is not something to be ashamed of, but rather a quality that deserves recognition and pride. The most effective method in my eyes when trying to bring Catholic students within the public-school sphere into reconnection with their faith is to simply accept the hand that Christ reaches out for them. Through meetings with the Committee of Youth Evangelization as well as countless retreats and faith formations, I have come to an understanding that Christ is always with us to guide us on our journey through life’s never-ending challenges. Teenagers today need to recognize this and realize that harboring shame towards their faith will only push Christ away.
It is also necessary to consider that there are too many distractions pulling teenagers away from accepting Christ – distractions I have personally experienced. Endless advancements in technology through social media platforms and a consistency in importance placed on one’s external image act as scene-stealers in modern society. Teenagers devote too much time and effort into maintaining the perfect image of themselves through social media, constantly self-conscious of how the world views them.
To teens, allowing something such as strong religious faith to possibly hinder or alter the image we work tirelessly to create for ourselves may as well be the end of the world. This, in effect, only goes to show the absolute obligation for self-evaluation and reflection of one’s faith in Christ. This crisis that the youth faces today in religious faith can be overcome for there is truly only one way to respond to signs of judgment when asked about one’s Catholic faith.
Yes, I am Catholic and I am proud.