Logos youth workers make friends with Jade

What will future Catholic Ministry look like as our priests age and numbers of priests diminish?

In today’s faster paced world, are those un-ordained people living their faith and ministering to others as an integral part of who they are, their work, and their daily interactions with others becoming the new ‘priests’?

Andrea O’Hagan and Elaine Dyer, reflect on their encounter with the Logos Project.  

Recently they trained the Logos team to present Jade Speaks up, a resource for helping to put strong safety strategies in place to support children, should violence occur in their lives. 

Last year our paths crossed the path of a group of Catholic youth workers known as Logos.

One morning I (Andrea) received a phone call from Anna, the Finance and Funding member of the team.

She had heard of a programme we developed through Violence Free Waitakere to address the issue of domestic violence with children.

Anna was interested because the programme, Jade Speaks Up, seemed to fit with the work of the Logos team in schools.

The Logos team are guided by the Marist principles of quiet service to the poor and those on the fringes of society.

In schools and communities they work with children and teens who listen and connect with these ‘ministers’ who are of the same cultures as the students and are not much older than them.

These youth workers model how to make life-choices based on a personal relationship with God.

Logos do their work on a shoestring budget.

While they work for the good of others rather than for financial reward, I understand they are considered too ‘churchy’ to qualify for government funding and too secular to qualify for church funding.

What will it take to change that view?

What needs to happen to keep the Logos team, and others like it ministering to younger communities who need these spiritually inspired, service orientated young people bringing Christ into the midst of the vulnerable?

Last September we met the Logos team in Auckland’s suburb of Newton and ran the two day training for them.

In a chapel room, under the steady gaze of Mary Mackillop’s picture on the wall, the team welcomed us, arranged the chairs, and dressed an altar table with fabric.

The Logos team began each day of the Jade Speaks Up training with a bible reading, linking it to their work ‘in the market place’.

Standing in a close circle they sang hymns/waiatas in harmonies that reached deep into our body, touched our souls and connected us with generations of faithful who had stood in that building and sung to God.

Through their questions and conversations regarding domestic violence and the contents of the programme, it was clear that each team member was holding the children they would interact with love, respect, compassion.

If they queried their own delivery abilities, they never doubted the difference the programme could make for children needing a safe space with trusted adults to talk about domestic violence.

The training consisted of two days of looking at what domestic violence is, and guiding the Logos team in interacting with the contents of the Jade Speaks Up programme.

They worked in small teaching teams, getting to know the sessions and processes and presenting mini teaching seminars to the rest of us.

Each team received constructive feedback on what was working in the teaching presentations and what they could consider changing from their colleagues.

Elaine and I gave feedback and guidance from our place of knowing the outcomes the team could achieve through paying attention to their language patterns and using the pedagogical strategies we had incorporated throughout the programme.

You may wonder why bother having Youth Workers available to schools. I have been asked, ‘isn’t this the work of the teachers? Don’t the teacher’s get paid to include this kind of learning into their Health programmes?’

Certainly teachers are expected to include programmes such as Jade Speaks Up to enhance key competencies such as managing self and relating to others.

They also seek such programmes that provide them with activities and plans to explore personal and interpersonal development.

The Logos team acknowledged that the class teachers ‘supported the delivery of the programme within their classrooms and were in the position to be able to reinforce the learning over the long term’.

However the value of having another group of young men and women from outside the school interacting respectfully with young people can be underestimated.

Some of our students in New Zealand do not have enough role models of adults showing respect, compassion and care for people – whether they know those people well or not not.

Feedback to the team from the teachers included the following comment:

  • The team was always really well prepared and established an excellent relationship with both classes.
  • They gave our boys opportunities to talk about their feelings and share common fears and experiences.
  • This … has helped our boys greatly by letting them share their feelings and emotions with each other and letting them know they are not alone, and that they are not the only ones who are feeling certain ways.

One Year 8 students commented:
I learned that everyone has a place and that we all have feelings [and are in situations] which can trigger anger… [but] there are people out there trying to help us and that we just need to ask.’

The boys who experienced the compassion of the Logos team learned from them that to break cycles of violence ‘we just need to ask’ [for help]. Isn’t that one of the significant messages of Christ?

Driving away I found myself reflecting on the spirituality and service of this group of youth workers.

Are they the face of the future Catholic Ministry? What will it take to ensure Logos and other teams like them can continue doing their work?

Like any enterprise the team has needs such as a building with affordable rent to work from, and funding to cover costs and wages.

How can lay people, priests and bishops support and develop such people within our Church?

“Christ has no body now
on earth
but yours.
No feet but yours, no hands but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which God pours out
to the world.”
Circle dance lyrics based on quote from St. Teresa of Avila

Co-written by Andrea O’Hagan, Positive Changes Coaching Services and Elaine Dyer, CEO Violence Free Waitakere

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