Note: Maryknoll Magazine, a Catholic publication about missionaries worldwide, recently sponsored a writing contest. Youth were to write a letter to Pope Francis about “…having courage, going forward, and making noise for God as a young person.” Our Jonathan entered the contest with the following letter.
Jonathan Schriner, 6th grade
542 S. Main St.
Bluffton, Ohio 45817
Dear Pope Francis,
My name is Jonathan Schriner. I currently live in the small town of Bluffton, Ohio.
The following are some of the ways I’ve tried to ‘have courage, go forward and make noise for God as a young person.’
At one point, our family moved from Bluffton to the inner city of Cleveland, Ohio, to help the poor. We were there for five years.
We volunteered with the “Catholic Workers.” When we were there, we met a man who lived under a bridge in a wooden box year round. I called him “Mr. Ray.” He was a Vietnam veteran and had post-traumatic stress disorder from combat.
Mr. Ray was starting to get his life back together with the help of the Catholic Workers. Then one night he died in a fire, after he rescued five people. He died a hero -- and taught me about courage.
In the Bible, Jesus said the greatest thing you can do is give your life for someone else. And Mr. Ray did that.
After our volunteer work in Cleveland, we also volunteered in Atlanta, Georgia, and South Bend, Indiana, with the Catholic Workers as well. The cities were more dangerous than Bluffton, and the kids were often worse off and needed help.
Our family also travels a lot in general, and as we travel we protest abortion on the streets. Some 4,000 babies are killed every day in America. The reason I protest is because all children should have a right to live.
Protesting abortion and helping the poor takes time away from my sports and play, but it is the right thing to do.
With the Catholic Workers, I helped with the clothing ministry. I also helped serve food. And I spent a lot of time just talking with the people.
I noticed that some people were sad and depressed. Sometimes I would try to cheer them up. Sometimes having a kid around helped.
There were many different types of Catholic Worker volunteers. One young man’s name was Johnny. He could have been working making a lot more money, but he chose to sacrifice for the poor. That was a good example to me.
I think that kids are never too young to help. There are lots of ways to help, like going out and earning money by mowing grass and raking leaves --and then donating to charities like the Catholic Workers, Heifer International, and Habitat for Humanity.
I have done that.
You can also help locally with your time.
Like for example, I helped the “Royal Rangers” (a Christian group for youth) clean and
landscape a church in Bluffton. In Cleveland, I regularly volunteered at the Catholic Worker “Urban Farm,” which used to be an old abandon parking lot. But now it has vegetables, flowers and chickens.
My older sister and older brother have been good Christian examples to me in many different ways. For example, my sister Sarah regularly prays and goes to Mass often. She also protests abortion in front of abortion clinics. She’s especially good at trying to convince young girls her age not to have abortions.
My brother Joseph goes to a weekly, small group Bible study, and he also does service work in the community with his church youth group from St. Mary’s Church.
Besides the brother I live with at home, I have another ‘brother’ in Latin America. Our family financially sponsors him through the Catholic agency “Unbound.” I sometimes donate to him with money I’ve earned.
It is important to sponsor kids that have especially hard lives. It often is not something they can just change on their own. There are 2.2 billion children in the world, and 1 billion children live in poverty.
We have to help them.
Sincerely in Christ