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They Know How to Reach the 'Lost Generation'

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By Felix Carroll (Apr 26, 2010)
Since January 2001, Dave and Joan Maroney, known as Mother of Mercy Messengers (MOMM), an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, have traveled more than 250,000 miles to give their multimedia presentations that go to the heart of The Divine Mercy message. While they gear their presentations to all ages, Dave and Joan consider their work with youth to be the most crucial.

Why the youth?

Dave: We've never seen a generation so lost, without a moral and spiritual foundation, and without any concept of sin. So many of the youth today are bombarded by temptations, by pornography, by the media, TV, films, the Internet, cell phones, you name it, and in the process, they've become products of a very hedonistic culture. Really, through little fault of their own, that's their life experience — seeking pleasure rather than holiness.

Joan: Also, many of them just simply lack love and a sense of family and community — a sense of meaning in the world. They see the wars and terrorism. They experience the chaos because it extends into their own families. They're scared and angry. They lack hope. If they feel there is no meaning, then they figure "Why not have sex? Why not do drugs?" They have grown up without God.

So how do you get through to them?

Dave: We have to meet them where they are. That is to say, this is the "digital age," and handing kids the Diary of St. Faustina is not the place to start. That comes later. First we have to pivot toward new technology and ways of communication that the youth have embraced.

Joan: This has become a big goal for us. We've seen though the Marians' website, thedivinemercy.org, how stories become "viral" and are forwarded from one person to the next and are picked up by blogs and now reach thousands of people. We need to capitalize on what we know works, and so we're turning a lot of our attention, for instance, to getting videos out there, including on our own website, thedivinemercy.org/momm. We have to reach kids where they are at. When Jesus told St. Faustina to "speak to the world about My mercy" (Diary, 848), she could never have imagined our digital age and our modern means of mass communication today. We have a huge opportunity to change lives.

But how can you compete with all the other things vying for their attention?

Joan: We've seen through our programs to youth how ready they are for something real and something positive. Think about it: A hundred kids commit suicide each week in our country. This is an epidemic and a symptom of the culture of despair, the culture of death, and the culture of distractions.

Dave: They know, deep down, that something is not right in the world and in their lives.

In your programs to youth you don't mince words about hell, Satan, the temptations of sex and substance abuse. Clearly, this message gets through to them. They line up for confession after your program. Does their reaction surprise you?

Joan: It continues to amaze us, because this runs contrary to the notion that our youth have no interest in religion, that it just isn't "cool." One of the main reasons why we continue to do what we do — to travel all over for months on end spreading the message of The Divine Mercy — is because it works.

But why does it work?

Joan: Because once we do the walking, Jesus does the talking (laughs). The thing is, this is so true. For so many kids, they have had no exposure to eternity, nothing that shows them the glory of God. And furthermore, because many of them are living in a state of immorality, they don't feel as if God would want anything to do with them. That's where we have to stress that, no matter what they've done in the past, Jesus is not mad at them. He wants them to turn away from sin and come into His loving arms. Christ says, "The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy" (Diary of St. Faustina, 723). Without even knowing it, so many of them have longed to hear this. It surprises us to this day, but they quiet down during our program. They are really into it. You can tell by just looking in their eyes. When they learn that God is not some far-off guy with a white beard, that He's present and with us and wants to comfort us, they love that, they need that, they want that, and they want to know more.

Dave: Once their eyes are open to the evil or to the discord and lack of love, once they identify it, then we stress the promises Christ makes to us through St. Faustina — that His mercy is greater than our sins. He wants to help us overcome our sins and fears. It doesn't mean these kids won't get wayward. It doesn't mean they won't stray. We are all sinners. But if and when they ever hit rock bottom, they'll know that they can turn to Him.

Are you hopeful that — through technology, through the growing network of Divine Mercy apostles, and through the work you and the Marians are doing — some sort of critical mass can be reached to turn our youth around?

Joan: I really am. Right now, as bad as things seem, I believe we are on the threshold of a backlash against this culture of despair. We've seen what the message of The Divine Mercy is doing in people's lives — how it's given people true peace and healing.

Dave: I agree. Jesus is history's greatest radical. He drove the moneychangers out of the Temple. He embraced the poor. He continues to transform the hearts of sinners. He exhorts us to love our enemies. He continues to be a healing, truth speaking, loving, sacrificing, and merciful radical. No one could ever top Him. Once we expose the youth to this, everything can change.

Visit MOMM's homepage for more information. MOMM also has a new Youth Matters web page with events listings and materials for students in age groups from kindergarten through high school.

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Susan M - May 1, 2010

Thank you,thank you, thank you! My daughter teaches a 5th grade class in a small, rural town in Maine. She is so discouraged by the behaviors of these children and if they act so in 5th grade, where will they be in 5 more years or less! She "believes" in God, was brought up going to Sunday School (Protestant), married a Catholic in the Catholic Church but has not been confirmed or has not developed a personal relationship with Jesus. I pray for her, for her salvation, for her class that stresses and disturbs her, and for the lack of leadership in the school, not knowing how to effectively discipline very concerning, inappropriate behaviors in the classroom. Not to mention the abusive, chaotic homelives of some of the students, especially 1 who is targeted with this evil behaviors of his classmates. My daughter is at her wit's end. I talk with her about Jesus, Our Lady, pray the Memorare for her and her class and left the prayer for her on 4/30/10. This is only 1 small school. It's so scarey to think of the countless others with such situations or worse and where the children are headed. They so need to hear the "Good News" of Jesus in a way that is relevant, a way that will get their attention and draw them into relationship with Him. My daughter dreads the weeks/day left until summer vacation. She was out on maternity leave from 12/22/09 to 2/22/10. The class was left in the hands of a very incapable teacher's aid. Since returning she has not been able to reign them back in. She also knows that most of them will end up in trouble. The school adm. seems to turn its head and avoids disciplinary action. If they could only see Jesus in my daughter, their teacher, anyone, they and their families would stand a chance. My husband and I just converted to Catholicism this Feb. We are so impressed with the local Catholic schools, both educationally and through their faith formation. Our young people need Jesus, now more than ever before. I pray for His love, mercy, transforming power to grow across our nation and throughout the world. I encourage praying believers to pray fervently for this country and the direction it is going. Our Lady's words to the children in Fatima to pray, pray, pray are needed today. People like yourselves that turn that prayer into action are God's answer to prayer. Keep on serving Him and reaching youth. God bless you all.

Eric - May 26, 2010

I couldn't agree more Susan. Our children are a product of the affects of this culture and social media. As parents we must be vigilant and pray together as a family. Shut off the tv, radios, ipods, cell phones, and spend time listening to our children. Sit down together as a family for a meal and also pray as a family. Visit the Sacrament of Confession together. Our children are under attack and that is why we must take our children back in our own households. If we as parents throw our arms up then who will rescue our children. God's mercy is immense and we are in need of it! The tools are there...Mass, frequent reception of Holy Communion, Confession, let's use them.