After I began at the Catholic Courier in the early 1990s, some of my favorite coverage involved Hands of Christ ceremonies. Each year, Bishop Matthew H. Clark would give plaques to hundreds of high-school seniors across the diocese for their dedication to church, school and community.
Not much has changed about Hands of Christ except that these days, with Bishop Clark having reached emeritus status, Bishop Salvatore Matano now issues the plaques. On a personal level, there was a key difference for me this year: the oldest of my three children, Andrew, was a Hands of Christ recipient. So, on Feb. 13, I arrived at Chili’s St. Pius Tenth Church with my wife rather than a reporter’s pad.
I love these ceremonies because so many young Catholics are brought together, alive in their faith. Equally important is that our bishop and our parishes go out of their way to recognize them. It’s my strong feeling that when these youths are validated in such a manner, they become more eager to carry their Catholic faith into adulthood.
To me, the Hands of Christ initiative accentuates the vast amount of good present in both our teenagers and in the Catholic Church — and that’s a message that probably doesn’t get heard often enough. Don’t get me wrong: When a teen shoots up a school and a priest is found to have abused innocent children, we need to grieve and do all we can to ensure that such awful actions aren’t repeated.
Yet I still believe that the good far outweighs the bad regarding today’s youths, as well as all that our Catholic religion stands for. If your faith in either of these two entities has been shaken, attending a future Hands of Christ ceremony might go a long way toward providing some reassurance.
Latona is a staff writer for the Catholic Courier.