Walking in Their Shoes
– Volunteer Pastoral Assistance in Catechesis and Teen Ministry
Childrens’ Catechesis and Teen Ministry is one of the most important tasks of today’s pastoral ministry. It means: We are building the future of the Church. Catechesis and Teen Ministry does not only mean guiding and protecting children and teenagers on an intensive journey of faith. It also means being at their side when the journey of life is going through ups and downs. St. Paul says: Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15). And according to these words the Church teaches: The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age […] these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ (Vaticanum II, Gaudium et Spes 1).
«in their shoes»
These teachings resound also in our Vicariate and they require our particular response for the Church in AVOSA. At the Teenagers’ Retreat TUFF 2016 in Ras al-Khaimah an urgent need in this regard showed up: Many teenagers were looking for persons to talk to about their individual needs. Some catechists and teen ministers who were present and who tried to help felt unable to cope with these situations because many times it required so much more than only quick solutions, hugs or prayers.
Therefore since the beginning of 2017 all catechists and other volunteers who are involved in teen ministry were invited to participate in a seminar titled “in their shoes – how to approach teenagers in critical life situations”. Until now the seminar was already conducted five times with 120 participants in total for nearly all parishes of the Vicariate.
Developing basic pastoral skills
It was a two-day-seminar with one day of talks about relational theories and one day full of practical exercices where the participants were trained how to deal with persons in difficult life situations. The main objective of the course was creating a sensitivity for helpful relationships which are in many cases already the solution for a personal crisis. The participants studied theories and practiced their understanding of these theories. The participants also learned to acknowledge their limits clearly as they are not professional counsellors.
Afterwards a time of enhancement started. The first occasion for a “training on fire” were the TUFF retreats 2017 in Ghala and in Ras al-Khaimah. The gatherings started for the ‘Shoe-Walkers’ – the fully established term for the participants of the seminar now (don’t care about the worst English!) – with a refresher just before the respective retreat. Then they were sent forth to be ready for the teenagers from all the parishes of the Vicariate. “Wanna talk?”, the invitation badge of the Shoe-Walkers, became a very successful label on this day in RAK and in Muscat. All Shoe-Walkers were surprised about the workload they had to cope with. The whole time at work as well as afterwards the Shoe-Walkers were coached by Mrs. Melissa Jayawickrema (School Counsellor) and Fr. Martin Stewen (Office of Christian Formation) who also conducted the seminar itself earlier.
The walk continues
The workload for the Shoe-Walkers at the TUFF retreats was a clear evidence for the need of this ministry. Many Shoe-Walkers themselves were already convinced that this ministry is important but they never thought of such a need.
So the enhancement will go on. From the beginning of 2018 the participants of the seminar are invited to attend refresher gatherings where they can share experiences and go on with practical exercices. Afterwards it has to be decided whether there will be a second batch of the seminar for the parishes.
We give thanks to all those who support the Shoe-Walkers in their parishes: the priests and religious, the catechist teams, parents and especially all the teenagers who could get some help from the Shoe-Walkers.
Melissa Jayawickrema & Dr. Martin Stewen