Diocese hosts Teens Encounter Christ leaders; Geneseo catechist honored
CHAMPAIGN — With about 60 leaders from 20 Teens Encounter Christ communities around the country converging on St. John’s Catholic Newman Center July 15-17, there was plenty of joy to go around as they prayed, learned and laughed together.
That joyful, fruitful ministry doesn’t come from running nonstop, however. That’s why TEC Encounter 2022 focused on “Ora et Labora: Balancing Work and Prayer.”
“There is a wrong way to do the right thing,” keynote speaker Marcia Lane-McGee of Chicago told those gathered in the Swetland Assembly Room on July 16.
“Yes, we’re doing good work, but we’re not being good to ourselves. And if we’re not being good to ourselves, we’re not being good to the people we’re serving,” said Lane-McGee, a former parish youth minister who works at Mooseheart, a residential child care agency, where she runs a home of teens and teaches social skills.
“How are we going to be salt and light and bear fruit and get them to heaven and get our own selves to heaven, and all the things that living this whole life of Christ that the ministry entails if we’re on autopilot, if we’re not keeping holy the Sabbath, if we are not prepared in the way we should be prepared,” she asked.
RESTING, RECHARGING, RELEASING
Lane-McGee prescribed rest, recharging, releasing what weighs us down, and getting ready as ways to strike the proper balance between work and prayer.
“Here’s the thing about rest — it is sacred and it is necessary. It is a non-negotiable in our lives,” she said. “I have to sufficiently rest before I can go to the next thing.”
Lane-McGee discovered the importance of recharging when she purchased her first cellphone. The salesman told her that she had to let it die once a week in order for it to function properly.
“We have to do that, too. We have to let ourselves completely shut down and we have to cut off access from other people,” she said. “We have to recharge our own batteries.”
Her phone doesn’t care that she’s annoyed because it is not accessible to her, according to Lane-McGee. “It’s like, ‘Here’s what I need. You’re just going to have to wait.’ We have to be able to say that” in a nice way.
She encouraged her listeners to assess what they’re carrying from time to time, asking “Is it mine? Do I need it? Does someone I love need it? Then I can share it with them. How much longer do I have to carry it? Does it benefit me or hinder me?”
We have to release what is hindering us and be able to leave it at the feet of Jesus, Lane-McGee said.
Noting that many people tend to be procrastinators and planners, Lane-McGee said it is good to plan. But we have to be ready rather than being in the position of rushing to get ready.
“We’re often not ready when we need to be because we have neglected the other Rs. We neglected the rest, we neglected the release, and we neglected the recharge,” she said. “We are facing burnout and are overwhelmed, which leads us to that procrastination.”
Like Martha and Mary from Luke’s Gospel, work and spending time with Jesus are not at odds. Both are good and necessary, Lane-McGee explained. If Mary was praised for choosing the better part it was because she put Jesus first.
“Mary was able to say, ‘Jesus, come in!’ and mean it. And that’s what we have to do, too, when we put first things first,” she said.
GENESEO CATECHIST HONORED
In addition to the keynote talk by Lane-McGee, TEC Encounter 2022 featured an opening Mass celebrated by Bishop Louis Tylka, who serves on TEC’s Bishops Committee.
The TEC Conference also presented Heritage Awards — it’s highest honor — to Kimberly Souba of Geneseo and Kathy Casey of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Both women, who have been involved on the local, state and national level, said TEC was a life-changing experience for them.
“When I made my TEC at Peterstown, it was the first time in my life that I can say that I felt unconditional love and acceptance as a teenager,” said Souba, who now serves as the director of religious education, confirmation preparation coordinator and coordinator of middle school youth ministry at St. Malachy in Geneseo.
“The reason I kept staying involved was more because I wanted to give back to other teens and other young adults . . . what I’ve received,” she said, adding that she also wanted to repay the many people who have invested in her, especially spiritually and emotionally.
That’s one of the reasons TEC is so important for the older adolescents and young adults it serves, said Billy O’Regan, executive director of the TEC Conference.
“When a person finds themselves known — their name is known, who they are is known, they’re loved unconditionally — it puts them in a position to encounter Christ more authentically and give themselves into community in a way you can’t before that,” he told The Catholic Post.
And they can ask questions about who Jesus is and what their relationship is to him because it’s done in a safe, secure environment, according to Father Kyle Lucas, diocesan coordinator for TEC.
While most dioceses have one TEC community, the Diocese of Peoria is unique in that it has four. In addition to Peterstown, there are TEC communities in Bloomington-Normal, Peoria and Northwest TEC in the Quad Cities.