By Lara Pickford-Gordon
During Pride Month (June 1–30), the Catholic Youth Commission (CYC) fields many questions from young people “about sexuality issues”.
This was disclosed by Episcopal Delegate for Youth, Taresa Best Downes as she responded to the question of how the CYC was “surviving” Pride Month. Best Downes was fielding questions after presenting on how to minister to youth at the ‘A Deeper Dive into the Theology of the Body’ session Thursday, June 23 via Zoom. It was hosted by the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission (AFLC) and the Billings Ovulation Method Association of Trinidad & Tobago to prepare a cadre of trained Catholics to effectively spread St Pope John Paul II’s teachings.
Best Downes said, “Up to recently I had a question from a young person ask why the Catholic Church does not fly the LGBT flag, so people get curious during Pride Month.”
She knew pride month made many people uncomfortable but does not bother her in a major way. “It is more about managing young people’s questions around social justice and sexuality… I don’t think people realise, there are very many young people who do not see themselves necessarily part of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community, but they empathise with their friends and loved ones.”
She added that they have deep burning questions about sexuality which adults did not answer well. “I love Pride Month; it is a time they feel stronger to ask questions…this year in particular lots of social justice questions.”
Best Downes referred to a story in the United States in which Bishop Robert J McManus of the Diocese of Worcester on June 16 instructed that the Nativity School of Worcester cannot identify as Catholic after it continued flying the Black Lives Matter and Pride flags.
The school had been told since March to desist and to find some other way to express their support for inclusivity. “That has me answering lots of WhatsApp messages,” she said.
In her presentation Best Downes said facilitators had to know their ‘why’ or motivation for teaching Theology of the Body (ToB). “We don’t really dispute the need for it to be promulgated or passed on to any generation but understanding your why.”
She explained that the answer to this question can affect their interaction with the young people. “If you are concerned, excited etc, it will come out in delivery of content.”
As an introduction, Best Downes asked participants to state with one word in the chat how they felt about ToB and young people.
Persons ministering to youth will be dealing with sensitive issues which parents themselves may not have addressed. “If you are not clarifying constantly your why, the why of the young person and the why of adults, parents, in this situation, a lot of conflict [will] arise.”
Parents/family have the primary role of formators so facilitators have to “honour the why and the process of the first faith formators, that is something you have to learn structurally how to do.”
Best Downes said there has to be an understanding of the information being provided to young persons and the way it may affect their home life. She gave the example of marriage. Some youths grow up in households where marriage is not a norm so after being exposed to ToB, “what thoughts, ideas, and concepts are going to be pervasive in their minds?”
The second consideration for facilitators is ‘How?’, the “practical part”. In their ToB training, they will learn practical ways to engage young people, from the “macro” or large events to the small group discipleship and accompaniment programes. They will be shown how to differentiate what is an “event mentality”, a “programme mentality” and how accompaniment—”walking along their life’s journey” fits into these.
Best Downes concluded her talk stating that even for the people seasoned in teaching ToB and dealing with young people, there is still something to learn.