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Keeping Faith

The youngest parish director of religious education in the El Paso, Texas, diocese was inspired to church ministry after World Youth Day in Denver five years ago. “When I came back, I was all gung ho, and I’ve stayed gung ho ever since,” said Eddie Holguin Jr., now 21 and a sophomore at El Paso Community College.

For the past two years, Holguin has directed religious education programs in Spanish and English at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. He has also formed a youth group and a Conference of St. Vincent de Paul in the parish.

The people who come for help at Crossroads, where Jeanne Sylvester volunteers in Detroit, often have visible scars from inner-city life: a man who lost eight fingertips to frostbite, a woman with a two-inch cut on her face from her husband. “Inner city life is frequently ugly,” said Sylvester, 72.

“Anyone with a love for the poor” can be a counselor at Crossroads, Sylvester said. She assists people seeking help, from bus fare to medical attention or legal aid.

“The best day I had is when a young man said I was the first person who said I believed he could make it in this world,” said Sylvester, a member of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. “I hope that made some difference in his life.”

Five years ago, vacation Bible school at the Church of St. Alexander in Farmington Hills, Mich., featured the usual regimen of art, music and games. “It was fun, but at the end I felt like we hadn’t taught the kids about living Christianity,” said Patty Bruder, director of the program.

The following year, Bruder adapted a program that incorporated Bible stories and raised funds to buy livestock in a Third World country. The children raised close to $1,000 in five days. Subsequent programs have worked with Habitat for Humanity and the Women’s International League of Peace. Enrollment has increased every year, especially with older kids who would normally have dropped out by sixth grade.

“I think it’s starting to broaden the whole outlook of the parish,” said Bruder, 36. “Teaching what’s in the book is not enough -- you have to put it into action.”

Send suggestions for Keeping Faith to Teresa Malcolm at NCR. Her E-mail address is tmalcolm@natcath.com

National Catholic Reporter, January 8, 1999