Theology institutes help fill formation gap

Be the Light Youth Theology Institute participants Nicole Masaki, Canisius student, class of 2018; Monica Wrobel, Canisius student, class of 2017; and Sandra Stahl, Orchard Park High School (Caleb Blodgett)

Over the summer, 20 individuals at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., spent a week living, working, studying and praying together, contemplating what exactly a “faith that does justice” means in their own neighborhoods. The core group were part of the inaugural Be the Light Youth Theology Institute, and included 10 Buffalo high schoolers, six Canisius College undergraduate students, two graduate students, an assistant director from campus ministry and a director from the philosophy department.

“Participating in Be the Light this past summer has really helped me explore my spirituality in a deeper sense,” said Maggie Treichler, a Canisius College student who served as a student leader. “I have been struggling with how often it seems that the bad outweighs the good in the world, especially with this year’s elections. But when I look back at the institute, I think about all the high school students who participated and remember that there is still good in the world.”

“My relationship with God has definitely been strengthened after my week at Be the Light,” said Abigail Skakal, a senior at Mount St. Mary’s Academy in Kenmore, N.Y. “I pray more often and more seriously, and I try to offer up all of my problems and put my trust in God and know he will take care of everything.

“Using the things I have learned about prayer and discernment, I feel more confident that my future will be pretty bright.”

Canisius College is one of 82 Lilly Endowment grantees awarded $583,000 to create opportunities for high schoolers to engage in their faith and to grow in their understanding of theology. According to a November 2015 press release, “The initiative builds on previous efforts to encourage young people to explore Christian leadership and service. In 1998, the Endowment made grants to seminaries to create high school youth theology programs. In 1999, it began making grants to support private colleges and universities as they strived to cultivate faith and vocation programs for undergraduates.”

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