Once a month, 16-year-old James Alvares starts his day at the Busy Bean Cafe in Victor, where he enjoys scrambled eggs, bacon, a croissant and a fruit smoothie with a shot of Red Bull energy drink.
James tops off his hearty meal with an equally substantial conversation about God with his peers before heading off to his classes at Victor High School.
“I just like kind of being able to just get there and just have a chill morning and talk to people about God,” he remarked.
James’ reaction to the monthly Javas and Jesus initiative is exactly what Donna DeJoode was hoping for when she launched it more than a year ago. DeJoode, director of Christian formation at St. Patrick Parish in Victor, had been looking for a way to help St. Patrick’s teens engage with their faith and their parish community, and an early morning breakfast fit the bill, she explained.
Breakfast food and spiritual food are both available at Javas and Jesus
Each Javas and Jesus session begins at 6:30 a.m. and lasts just 45 minutes to give the teens time to get to the high school, which is located just around the corner from the Busy Bean Cafe. In exchange for getting out of bed a little earlier than usual, the teens are provided with a free breakfast and the opportunity to bond with their peers over conversation.
“They can order off the menu, and it costs them nothing, except for a little shut-eye,” DeJoode said.
After arriving at the cafe, the teens and DeJoode place their orders. As they settle in and start to eat, DeJoode asks the teens to take turns sharing where they experienced God in the last month and what situations or events in their lives are bringing them anxiety or excitement.
“Then we pray for those things. You hear about some of the fun stuff that’s been going on, and their tests coming up. They start their day with God on their mind, and we give them a blessing before they leave,” DeJoode said. “Those who come absolutely love it.”
Teens form bonds, strengthen faith at breakfast
The breakfast meetings are the perfect way to start the day, noted 18-year-old Emma Alvares, James’ sister.
“I always have a good day after the breakfast,” she said.
Participating in the monthly breakfasts has helped Alvares get to know other teens from her parish and strengthen her faith, she added. Lula Dalupang, who graduated from Victor High School last year, also said participating in the breakfasts last year helped her form friendships with her peers in the parish.
“It just makes you feel closer to the community. Especially being younger in a religious setting, you don’t really get to interact with other people your age, so having that outside time to get to know people is really nice,” said Dalupang, who is wrapping up her freshman year at Hamilton College in Oneida County.
The breakfasts also provided a nice way for the teens to get to know their pastor, Father Edison Tayag, who sometimes came to the coffee shop with the group, she said.
Teens become comfortable sharing their faith in public spaces
The atmosphere inside the coffee shop — which opens an hour early to accommodate the teens — is very laid back during Javas and Jesus, said Dalupang, 18. DeJoode agreed that the agenda for each session is not overly complicated, yet it seems to be effective at engaging the teens.
“We’re not opening a book and diving in before they go to school. It’s just (reflecting on) how is God present in our everyday life?” DeJoode said.
“It’s a good way to bring church into your daily life and make it more a part of your week than just on Sundays, and incorporate it into your life more,” Alvares remarked.
At first, incorporating a conversation about faith into the middle of a meal at a coffee shop felt a little unusual, she admitted.
“It’s just different from where you’re used to talking about God,” she explained. “I think now it feels pretty natural.”
DeJoode hopes that this experience will have an effect on the teens’ comfort level with faith-sharing in the future.
“We’re talking about God in a restaurant, outside the confines of the church campus,” she said. “We might never know how that translates to their adult life later on, but if they’re comfortable talking about God in a restaurant now as a teenager, my hope and prayer is that they’re comfortable talking about God as an adult in other public settings as well.”Tags: Faith Formation, Ontario County News