Recently I have been on a kick of cleaning out or, as I have been calling it, “purging.” It started with one day realizing that I had way too many coffee mugs for my kitchen cabinets. I sorted through the ones I liked and threw out the ones not needed, which created much more space in my cabinets. I then moved onto other cabinets, shelves and drawers, cleaning out what I didn’t need to make room for the essentials and future items to come. I got so into purging, that I took on more projects from closets to my entire basement of storage! It felt so good to get rid of the things I didn’t need and sometimes didn’t even know that I owned. I then took the cleaning out a step further to my office at work.
At Our Lady of Peace Parish we have both a youth office space and lounge area. The office is where my desk is located, and it also houses our ministry supplies. Connected to it is a room for our youth to gather and hang out and is where we host many of our ministry’s meetings. Both of these spaces have been part of our ministry since 2010, when we had youth help paint and decorate it. Through the years, however, we have collected a lot of “stuff” which cluttered the room up. It was time to “purge” it as well.
I took advantage of the help offered by some of the youth and young adults on our CORE Team who started to make big plans for renovating the space. We set a date and the purging began. Ten trash bags later and a whole bunch of trips to the dumpsters, we had three very organized closets and a cleaned-up lounge and office space.
The following week we painted, bought new furniture and decorations and gave the space a whole new look and feel. The renovations have excited our youth, both the ones who directly helped and others who occupy the space. The purging felt so good for our entire ministry, and it was needed after eight years of building up.
I started to reflect about how “purging” can be related to our faith. How often we hold onto hurts or pains of the past from relationships and bad experiences that hinder us from growth. How often we “clutter” what free time we may have with other things rather than praying or spending time in adoration or with Scripture.
I began to examine my own life and also started to ask the youth what was holding them back. I posed the question recently at our JP2 high school Spiritual Guidance group, “What can you purge in your life, to make more room for God?”
It was amazing to hear their answers. Many talked about how social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube easily suck them in for as much as hours at a time. Others talked about how laziness and wanting to just sleep late (especially with it being summer) has kept them from possibly attending daily Mass or spending morning time in prayer with God.
We talked about how we must sometimes forcibly “purge” these areas of our life to create that space for spiritual growth. Many agreed to limit their time on social media. (Believe it or not there’s an app to track your time on it!) Others talked about deleting apps that distract them and take up a lot of their time. Some agreed to set alarms and wake up early, especially on Wednesdays when we have our summer 8 a.m. Mass, followed by breakfast. It was a very eye-opening experience to hear their resolutions.
One thing I learned is that teens and young adults need to be challenged in their faith. It is not enough for them to just attend Mass and youth group to say that they are “involved” in their faith. They need to be challenged to go further. Often that is helped by someone like their parents, Godparents, older siblings or youth minister to give them that challenge to help open up the space for growth.
In order to open up that space, things will need to be cleaned out. The next time your life or that of the young people you are around seems to be “cluttered,” it may just be time to do some purging. Challenge yourselves and them to clean out what is holding them back from growth.
Kari Janisse has been the coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Williamstown since 2009. She leads programs for youth starting in third grade through young adults up to 28 years old. She also leads programs outside of the parish called, “+he ROCK,” which are Catholic Clubs at local high schools.