Faith-based lunches nourish students’ need to talk about their faith
March 3, 2023
The number of Catholics who participate in the life of the Catholic Church is declining in the Archdiocese of Omaha and across the country. High school students are no exception.
A study by the Springtide Research Institute, “The State of Religion & Young People 2021 – Catholic Edition,” surveyed Catholics ages 13-25 and found that only 27% considered their faith fulfilling. In terms of fulfillment among young people, faith lagged well behind listening to music and caring for a pet.
The study concluded that engaging young Catholics requires outreach and a consistent and positive presence in their lives. Further, teens need to know that their thoughts and questions are heard.
It just so happens that Cody Fischer, assistant director of campus ministry at V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha, has started weekly Men’s Lent Lunches at the school, incorporating the very tactics cited in the survey.
A few days before Lent began, Fischer walked around the lunchroom and invited boys to eat lunch with him and a few other students every Wednesday during Lent. He had also put up some flyers but said personal invitations were the key.
“All it takes is saying, ‘Instead of eating lunch here at this table, come into this room where you’re going to be able to eat lunch and have a faith-based conversation with one of the adults at the school,’” Fischer said.
Michael Baumert, a senior at Skutt, believes high school students need an outlet like these lunches to talk about their faith in a relaxed setting.
“It’s just a normal lunch, and we share our faith,” he said. “It’s not a lecture or a class. It’s just fun.”
Baumert heard about the lunches from several students before Fischer invited him.
Fischer said the type of student who attends the Men’s Lent Lunches vary. Some were super excited to come and talk about their faith. Others kind of stumbled into attending.
Skutt has three lunch periods, so three groups meet each Wednesday.
“One of the lunches, we had probably eight or nine guys there,” Fischer said. “But it’s funny. There was another lunch where only one student showed up. He said, ‘Hey, Mr. Fischer, I’ll go find some students.’ So, he actually went out into the lunchroom himself and brought back three more guys.”
Fischer believes that deep down, most teens are looking for opportunities to get together with others to talk about their faith but have never had the chance. Others don’t know it is something they would enjoy until they experience it.
Archbishop George J. Lucas has talked about the power of small groups and how they are gaining traction across the archdiocese.
“The Lord calls us to an experience of life in Him,” Archbishop Lucas said in his latest Shepherd’s Voice podcast. “But He doesn’t call us as individuals. Each of us has a very unique and personal relationship with the Lord, but it’s always in the context of the community of believers.”
Live Lent Together, a parish-based movement of small groups of friends and family that break open God’s Word, is similar to what is happening at the Skutt lunches.
Senior Timothy Combs said he is always looking for ways to get closer to God. Men’s Lent Lunches fit the bill. He believes small groups like these are especially needed in high schools.
“High school is a time where students go through many changes, and it’s easy to lose track of their relationship with God,” Combs said. “Groups like these allow students to stay anchored to their faith and focus on their relationship with God.”
Fischer believes the key to the success of the lunches lies in their ability to foster friendships in a casual, laid-back environment.
“I’m really big into relationship building,” Fischer said. “I think that young people today, if they feel like someone’s trying to push them in a direction, it is very off-putting to them.”
He hopes that those who attend the weekly Men’s Lent Lunches will gradually gain a better understanding of their faith, pray more ardently and fervently, and understand just how much God loves them.
“I would say I’m like a seed planter, and then I have to put a lot of trust and hope in the Lord that those relationships will grow to the point where there’s more openness and receptivity to the tenets of the faith,” he said.