As the catechetical team and I were packing up, one of the quieter teens asked if I was available to talk. I was exhausted, and the last thing I wanted to do was to strike up a new conversation; however, I gathered my strength, said a quick prayer for patience and presence, and sat down at a table in the cafeteria. She said, “My mom has breast cancer, Kristin. What if she dies?” Tears began flowing, and her head fell into her hands. This was not going to be a one minute conversation, but then, most of the important conversations aren’t.
To serve a young person who has come to us in crisis, the primary task of pastoral response is to remember who and whose we are and to remain grounded in our personal relationship with Christ. We need to maintain a prayerful heart and a peaceful, non-anxious presence and recognize that this young person is in the arms of Christ as she struggles. Our role in this situation is limited. We must pray consistently and intentionally during the conversation. Today’s adolescents ache to have someone to listen to their stories, especially when they find themselves in crisis. By being present to young people in the moment, we strengthen them for the road ahead.