MILWAUKEE — A group of about two dozen teenagers gathered at St. Margaret Mary Parish Saturday, Jan 10, to talk with About two dozen teenagers gather at St. Margaret Mary Church, Milwaukee, Saturday, Jan. 10 for “Speak your voice, see your story, live God’s Glory! A mission engagement experience,” where they discussed how to live their faith every day. View or purchase more photos from this event. (Catholic Herald photos by Ricardo Torres)
members of World Mission Ministries about how to live their faith in their daily lives.

“The important part for me today was to help the young people to understand that they do have a voice in all of this,” said Shanedra Johnson, organizer of the event. “We need to hear those voices. A lot of times us older folks need to just step back and just listen.”

Johnson, member of St. Rose Parish, Milwaukee, said the idea originated during a discussion she had with Joan Plumley at the archdiocese’s Welcome Back Day at the Cousins Center in fall.

Plumley, a member of St. Boniface Parish, Germantown, said kids in the suburbs need to meet kids from the central city.

“I have this dream, actually, that we should bring kids together from suburban areas of Milwaukee with kids from Milwaukee,” Plumley said. “I felt that it was something that we need to do, just looking at our society today.”

While they were talking at the event, Antoinette Mensah, head of archdiocesan World Mission Ministries, offered to help create it.

“Speak your voice, see your story, live God’s glory! A mission engagement experience,” became an all-day event.

“It’s important for young people to know, more than anything, they’re alike,” Johnson said. “Obviously, there are differences … but there are more things that they have in common than not in common.”

Sean Lansing, director of mission engagement for Cardinal Stritch University, spoke at the event and thought it was an opportunity to tell teenagers about how they can use faith to stand up for what’s right.

“In our high schools in the city, I mean, that is a ripe field for standing up against injustice,” Lansing said. “There’s all these things that we say, that divide us as a human family: ‘You’re not the right religion, you’re not the right race, you’re not the right socio-economic status,’… we don’t just care about these things as a point to take care of them, we care about them because it’s our faith.”

Lansing said he hopes the teenagers connected with each other.

“We’re so divided as a country, as a city, by race,” Lansing said. “We don’t have to be divided. We don’t have to be. We choose to be.”

Fr. Chester Smith, a member of the Society of the Divine Word, talks to one of the teens who attended a mission engagement experience, Saturday, Jan. 10 at St. Margaret Mary Parish, Milwaukee.Another speaker, Fr. Chester Smith, a member of the Society of the Divine Word, talked to the teenagers about how to be an “ambassador of the Word.”

“It’s calling them to not be caught up in what the world is being caught up in,” Fr. Smith said. “Even some of their peers being caught up in peer pressure, caught up in gangs. It’s calling them to be Christ-like.”

Fr. Smith said he hopes the young people become more engaged in Catholic social teaching.

“They’re trying to live out or imitate Jesus in everything thing that they do,” he said. “They are the future that can end racism, sexism and all those other isms that tend to destroy the very fabric of the community.”

The event left the teenagers with ideas on to how to live their faith in their own lives.

Mamaa York, seventh-grade student at St. Margaret Mary School and member of All Saints Parish, Milwaukee, thought the event was “inspirational.”

“I figured out things that I never heard about before,” York said about Catholic social teaching.

For Alex Castro, a student at Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School, Milwaukee, and member of St. Michael Parish, Milwaukee, the event was transformative.

“I thought it was powerful,” Castro said. “(The event) talks about what our role in life is. We should dedicate our time to making the world a better place and it also shows us our duty.”

For Bianca Vargas, also a student at Reagan High School, the day was a learning experience.

“I think it’s very informative,” Vargas said. “It’s neat how they’re connecting it to our daily life and saying how our faith is in our daily life.”

The students also spent time with the Playback Milwaukee Theatre Company and participated in improvisational games and got to know each other.

Organizers hope the day made an impact upon the teens and would like to plan a similar gathering.

“I hope it’s the beginning of a larger group that we can share, that we can continue and we can do some good work together,” Plumley said.