PISCATAWAY – Student leaders from the four Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Metuchen participated in a Jan. 31 listening session, at the invitation of Bishop James F. Checchio, where they discussed the challenges facing youth today.

Student representatives from Bishop George Ahr High School, Edison; Immaculata High School, Somerville; Saint Joseph High School, Metuchen; and Mount Saint Mary Academy, Watchung, met with Bishop Checchio and John Glynn, the diocesan director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, at the Saint John Neumann Pastoral Center, 146 Metlars Ln. Their meeting followed the worldwide Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment, convened by Pope Francis and held in Rome in Oct. 2018.

“As I read the final document of the synod, and read the many concerns expressed by the young people and the bishops, it confirmed for me the need for all of us to be in meaningful dialogue with young people,” Bishop Checchio said.

Sign Up for E-News

For more than an hour, the 15 Catholic high school students spoke candidly with Glynn, who facilitated the meeting, and the Bishop of Metuchen. As the dialogue flowed freely around the conference table, Bishop Checchio listened and took handwritten notes on a pad of paper, recording key points and follow-up items, and often asking questions of his own.

During the discussion, students were asked to convey the sources of their joy and, to the contrary, the sources of their struggles. They spoke about the regular and deepening pressure they face to measure up – academically, physically and socially – to the exceedingly high expectations placed upon them. As a result, they noted, an increasing number of students are suffering from depression and metal health challenges.

The students also expressed the importance of extending empathy, emphasizing that in social media’s picture-perfect culture it is especially easy for people to portray flawless versions of themselves, meanwhile they unknowingly struggle while living imperfect lives.

Bishop Checchio acknowledged the growing struggle, saying, “So much is public nowadays, which can create more fear in your head.” He continued, “Jesus told us to measure ourselves against himself and by his teachings, which encourage us to be merciful like our heavenly Father.”

Before the conclusion of the meeting, which opened and ended in prayer, Bishop Checchio posed the question: What can I, and the Church, do to help?

“Young people today are faced with so many challenges and opportunities, it really takes all of us to help guide and prepare our youth to be vigilant against evil in their future,” Bishop Checchio said. “How can we lead them towards discovering their goals and Christ if we do not listen to and empathize with their current experiences?”

The listening session was one of several interactions the Bishop of Metuchen had with students during National Catholic Schools Week, which was celebrated throughout the United States from Jan. 27 – Feb. 2.

The annual celebration this year was themed, “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” Schools typically observe the annual celebration week with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. Through these events, schools focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to our church, our communities and our nation. 

“Each year, the Church celebrates Catholic Schools Week and I certainly want to thank all those who make them such great places in our diocese; they are a blessing which carries on throughout the school day, what our parents try to pass on to their children at home,” Bishop Checchio said. “A sacrifice, yes, but one well worth it.”

For more information about enrolling your child or to find out how you can help support the privately-funded programs which provide tuition assistance to aid low-and moderate-income families within the diocese, please visit diometuchen.org/schools or call (732) 562-2446.