IN PHOTO: Jameke Brown was chosen to represent the Roman Catholic Community at Youth Week
By Kaelanne Jordan
The Office of Youth Ministry forming the Catholic Youth Commission (CYC) is one of the State stakeholders of the Ministry of Youth Development and National Service (MYDNS) and “so we are constantly informed of everything going on when it comes to the Government,” said Taresa Best-Downes – Episcopal Delegate for Youth, CYC.
This includes being part of a registry of youth organisations and thus representing Catholic youth when it comes to State decisions. It also relates to participation in youth policy. Best-Downes explained the CYC represented the Church in the drafting of the latest national youth policy. When it came to representation, “the Ministry would have gone directly to the IRO (Inter Religious Organisation), however, to be able to assign a person to start the Youth Week, Vicar General Fr Martin Sirju was notified and he engaged the Spiritual Director for the Youth Commission, Fr Mikkel Trestrail and myself to find a young person that could speak directly to the heart of young people in the audience on the day.”
Best-Downes told Catholic News Jameke Brown was chosen because he has a “track record” of speaking in public and being faithful to his Catholic identity. FOLLOW HIM @catholicfire_ TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HIS SHARING OF THE FAITH.
She acknowledged Brown was discerning his vocation as an aspirant for the Archdiocese of Port of Spain (August 2020-June 2021), and although he chose not to move forward as a priest, “he is deeply committed to his faith.” “And in general, he’s a young man that has a bright future as a leader in the nation, but definitely a leader in the Archdiocese. As you can tell from what he spoke about on the day, he’s a very good preacher and generally when it comes to these types of things, Jameke is a trusted friend and collaborator in the Youth Office,” Best-Downes said. Brown is an author and uses his social media platform, catholicfire_ on Instagram to discuss his faith. He also participates in missionary activities, most recently at this year’s ‘Jesus Explosion’ Mission, Hosororo, Guyana, April 1–8. Brown was a youth leader at both San Rafael RC parish and St Charles RC, Tunapuna parish for several years. He is also a lay minister at San Rafael RC. This year’s Youth Week began August 8 and culminated August 12.
Under the theme: Envision. Engage. Enrich, the week included various activities including a Youth Inter-Religious Service, Youth Engagement: Group Link Youth Policy and MYDNS Programmes, Youth Conference, Youth Entrepreneurship Village and Career Fair and Youth Explosion. Brown’s presentation on the opening day was on ‘The role of spirituality in today’s Youth’ from a Catholic perspective. He began his 10-minute talk quoting Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s belief that “when a man can’t find a deep sense of meaning in life, he distracts himself with pleasure.”
He said, “… many of the young people have been told that meaning is to be found in all of the excesses we pursue. So, there is excess sex, parties, alcohol, just spending time pleasing and satisfying your desires. But there was a study done by the Journal of Abnormal Psychology in the United States which said that between 2009 and 2017, there has been a 60 per cent rise in suicide and depression in teenagers, which says to us that even though the young people are being told by the world to just pursue, pursue and just please, please and satisfy…they are searching for something, but they are still not finding.”
Brown suggested in his presentation that the answer lies in the Gospel of Luke 9:23 where Jesus says, “if any man wants to be a follower of mine, he must first deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” “So, I linked the first part of that to being completely contradictory to what the world tells us. The world tells us to satisfy and to please, but Jesus is telling us to deny ourselves and take up our cross… Sometimes you need to deny yourselves to find yourselves because sometimes you can get very lost in trying to just please every single desire you may have and lose your own identity in that quest,” Brown said.
Self-denial and self-control as mastery
He explored the issues of self-denial and self-control, adding control teaches us how to master that “beast” within us called sin. To youth he said, “When we do the things we know we’re not supposed to do, when we pursue the excesses we know we’re not to pursue, we commit sin, sin against God. And God is saying to us, we require self-denial to find ourselves.” Referring to the scripture passage, Brown asserted everyone has a cross to bear in life. “Each of us are directly responsible for something…. wherever we are at as young people, we are called to be responsible for some particular thing. And the way in which we bear that responsibility or the way in which we bear that cross, transforms us into the people God has called us to be.”
Brown then continued with the question “What are the crosses in your life that you’re refusing to bear?” “And think about the good that could come of the cross that you bear? Think about the blessing that could come out the cross that you bear in your life just as the blessing came out of Jesus bearing His cross.” He commented that his presentation seemed to be “very well received” and he garnered positive feedback from the audience. Based on his involvement with youth, Brown said youth need mentors to be present and to be heard. “I think a lot of young people are afraid of asking for advice or afraid of sharing particular situations they may find themselves in because they’re afraid they will be judged. It’s my experience that honestly, if you just sit and listen to a young person tell you what’s going on in their lives, even though it might be something that’s very immoral….if you don’t react like ‘Oh my gosh that what’s you doing?’ and you just react like ‘Ok, tell me more’…they would realise I’m not being judged right now.” Brown suggested the Church provide “more space” to give young people “good, clean” alternatives for fun. “Because at the end of the day, if we want to tell our young people don’t do X, we must provide an alternative to them to do Y,” he commented.
Best-Downes shared that staff of the Youth Office attended Youth Week 2022 on behalf of the Archdiocese. She mentioned the CYC also encouraged parishes and various youth groups to engage in the Youth Week activities particularly entrepreneurship, personal development, and career development talks.