The Next Generation
The word adolescent is Latin, meaning “growing up,” a time of physical, emotional, and spiritual formation. Decisions made in the teenage years often determine the course of a person’s life, and they must be made with wisdom and clarity. In teenagers, these virtues are sometimes under-developed, or worldly factors interfere with the important choices that need to be made. At this stage of life, it helps to have loving and insightful guidance.
Father Vincent McGarvey, a newly ordained priest and associate at St. Patrick’s in the 1940s was an enthusiastic advocate for the Catholic Youth Organization or CYO. It was a very active group in our parish during the war years and throughout the 1950s. Who knows how many marriages and children came to be because of its activities. But as time went on, for numerous reasons, the CYO diminished, then disappeared. By the mid-1970s, there was no program for youth in St. Patrick’s parish.
Father McGarvey returned to St. Patrick’s in 1971 as pastor. Always a strong advocate for youth and sports, he very much wanted to re-start a program for teenagers, but, now well into his 50s, felt he couldn’t relate that well to young people. Fortunately, in 1978, a very energetic young priest named Gary Sanders, aged 29 was assigned to St. Patrick’s as an associate. At Father McGarvey’s suggestion, Father Gary began the mission of establishing a Youth Group in the parish.
Father Gary had served as a deacon at St. Pat’s in 1974 and was acquainted with some of the parishioners. Five who were instrumental in helping with the Youth Group project were Carol Forsythe, Evelyn Williams, Peter and Liz Huch, and Florence Peters. All were enthusiastic and supportive of parish causes, and the Youth Group became a reality in 1980.
At first, the St. Patrick’s Youth Group was small in numbers, with only ten members, but it was high in dedication and zeal. Social outings were many and varied, with activities like horseback riding, miniature golf, movies, camping trips, sporting events, and others. There were meetings to discuss religion as well as topics relevant to teenagers, and special Masses and liturgical celebrations were held just for the young members. All meetings were parent-free, but a priest, usually Father Gary, was always available to offer counsel and to answer questions. A “tell-your-friends”, as well as a postcard writing campaign, helped bring in new members, and over the next few years, numbers and activities grew exponentially. The Youth Group of St. Patrick’s became the most popular such group in all of San Diego Diocese.
The Youth Group was for the most part self-sustaining. Members set up and ran their own fund-raising activities, and other parish groups, many with the help of Florence Peters, assisted with activities. Members were required to participate in the parish’s many charitable practices, such as feeding the hungry, assisting at parish events, and helping at the orphanage in Tijuana. Fun was at the heart of all activities, as was the engendering of respect and love for the Catholic faith and the enjoyment of social gatherings.
After it became well established, the Youth Group needed an adult to oversee and coordinate its many activities. At first, the group was headed by religion coordinators Diana Smallwood and Donna Erickson, but it soon got its own dedicated director. Tammy Hanks Mansir served first and was followed by Patty Lawrence, Shauna Ahiers, Lisa Laughter, Bethany Clay Turner, and Eneida Scoby. All served with distinction and love.
Covid-19 was devastating to social gatherings; social distancing is the watchword. The Youth Group was put on hiatus like many other groups, but the need may be greater now than ever. God willing, someday soon the Youth Group will be back stronger than ever.