Patricia Hastings feels that youths of today “have challenges that I don’t think any generation has had for a long, long time. They bring us such joy, but they have some trials and tribulations.”
For example, she said, “Both parents are working, so there’s an awful lot of depending on (youths) to make decisions on their own.” Hastings added that “they’re exposed to a lot more sex on TV and with anything they read, on computers — young people just have so much at their fingertips that lead them to feed their minds … when you read about young people in grades 7 and 8 having sex, we need to do some praying.”
Hastings said her concerns led to the idea “to bring some love to the young people. We need to pray for them, and what better time than during Lent?”
That will occur through a series titled “Lenten Gift of Prayer for the Youth of Schuyler County.” It is scheduled for five consecutive Thursdays beginning at 7 p.m. at St. Mary of the Lake Church, 905 N. Decatur St., Watkins Glen. The program is sponsored by the Catholic Daughters of America Court Lourdes No. 628, for which Hastings serves as chairperson of education.
Each evening will include prayer as well as Bible readings. In addition, an impressive slate of speakers, who deal with the everyday challenges of youths, has been assembled: March 9 — J.C. Argetsinger, Schuyler County surrogate and Family Court judge; March 16 — George Roets, Schuyler County director of public and mental health; March 23 — Joseph Fazzary, Schuyler County district attorney; March 30 — Mary Ellen Correa, Watkins Glen Central Schools superintendent; and April 6 — Father Paul Bonacci, pastor of Schuyler Catholic Community, where Hastings, Argetsinger and Fazzary are parishioners.
Hastings said that men, as well as youths, are welcome to attend — but the program is mainly geared toward women, to whom “God gave the gift of bearing children” and who can best identify with “the closeness that mothers go through with their children.” She added that churches of all denominations are welcome: “We’re trying to bring this into the whole community.”
Father Bonacci said he can relate to the concerns raised by Hastings, recalling a conversation he had a few years back with Father Robert Kennedy, a fellow diocesan priest.
“I said ‘Bob, I’m just noticing how many adolescents are going to counseling.’ His comment was that it used to be, within your household or immediate neighborhood, there was a loved one you could talk to; it was a sense of stability. Now there’s a whole different sense of nuclear families — divided families, blended families,” Father Bonacci said.
With this scrambling of family structure, Father Bonacci observed, “One of the comments I often hear from younger people is, ‘Nobody understands me.’ And so I think that’s a great concern of our community.”
Add in the present-day negative influences noted by Hastings, and Father Bonacci said, “I look back at my grade-school and high-school years, and there but for the grace of God go I. I had my temptations … I don’t know if I would survive today, if I would have the strength and the wisdom.”
Father Bonacci added that a growing level of poverty in the Schuyler area adds to the challenges for future generations.
“We are the second-poorest county in New York state, and that brings a whole other subset of problems,” he said.
Based on all these issues, the pastor feels the Lenten program is quite appropriate.
“When Pat (Hastings) brought the idea to me, I experienced great joy. People caring for people — that’s the love of Christ,” he said.