By Craig Gould, Peacebuilders Initiative, Catholic Theological Union, January 21, 2015.
JB was not a Peacebuilder when the summer began. He was a teenager from Pittsburgh who some-what willingly accompanied his mother to Chicago while she taught a week long course at Catholic Theological Union. Being independent JB would explore Chicago when his mother was working, but there more than a few times when he was more alone than anyone would like.
His mother, Helen, happened to run into me during the week, and she herself a former teacher in Candler’s Youth Theological Initiative (YTI) program, asked if there was any way that JB could just sit in for maybe a theology session or time of prayer. I thought it would be great and encouraged her to bring him around so that we could meet him and welcome him into our time together. Soon enough JB popped into one of our theology sessions, and then onto our times of prayer, and then he just became part of us. The rest of the Peacebuilders welcomed him in and made him feel that he was exactly where he belonged. JB began to understand that their choice was also God’s choice- God had chosen JB to have this experience.
On the last night I had the privilege of washing JB’s feet at our closing liturgy. It was a final symbol to reassure him of God’s ever welcoming arm. As a community and a people of God, it was our great honor to move JB from being and “outsider” to “inside” a group of faithful adolescents.
After the summer program JB returned back to Pittsburgh but continued his journey as a Peacebuilder. He flew back to Chicago for the overnight retreat in November, surprising the group and reconnecting with friends. The culmination of this story is that JB has now applied for and been accepted into Candler’s YTI high school theology program for the upcoming summer.
The hospitality shown JB from a group of high school youth that very easily could have cast him aside as someone from the “outside” was truly remarkable. It demonstrated a deep level of trust and maturity that is required in all future leaders. It also demonstrated to us as staff that we should always be open to the ways in which God intends to use this program for purposes beyond our planning.
Craig Gould is a baptized follower of Jesus who lives out this calling through his marriage to his wife Katie, his parenting to his children, and as a theologian working in the contextual field of adolescent and young adult ministry. He is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Programs at Catholic Theological Union, which includes the Peacebuilders Initiative high school theology program.