Catholic Education
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Issue Date:  April 4, 2008

-- Patricia Lefevere

Todd Lemieux
Teacher cowrites book to show 'How fun it is to be Catholic'

Before seniors rush out the door of Kellenberg High School in Uniondale, N.Y., into the real world of college, jobs and committed relationships, they will receive one item they may tote in their rucksack a few more years.

Weighing little more than a diary and styled like a trendy self-help volume, 100 Things Every Catholic Teen Should Know is coauthored by Todd Lemieux, who teaches morality, scripture and Christian humanism at Kellenberg, and Mark Hart, executive vice president of Life Teen International.

Lemieux and Hart, who have worked as youth ministers, wrote the book after hearing countless questions about the faith asked over and over again by teens and finding so many misconceptions and even “lies” about Catholicism repeated endlessly, said Lemieux. Published in 2007 by Life Teen, the 275-page book promises to make the most complex and controversial church teachings entertaining and easy to follow and to show readers “how fun it is to be Catholic.”

For teenagers who’ve never said the rosary, done lectio divina, made a novena or memorized the Ten Commandments, the book provides the “how to.” The authors offer chapters on abortion and transubstantiation as well as on Ouija boards, contraception and “666: The Devil’s Digits.”

The authors say that just as people date potential partners before marriage, they need to “date” the priesthood or religious life if they wish to be truly open to God’s call.

Kellenberg’s XLT, a worship and exaltation group, which Lemieux supervises, uses Christian rock to engage teenagers in prayer, eucharistic adoration and liturgy. “God created us with five senses; all five have to be engaged if good liturgy is to happen,” said Lemieux, a graduate of Pepperdine University in California and a former actor. When it does “it can move us from the side street to the superhighway spiritually.”

But most adolescents are spending far more time on the electronic highway, he acknowledged. On his students’ social networking profiles on Web sites like Facebook and YouTube, he found a “serious separation” between their virtual profiles and their real selves. “What’s dangerous is they think this is a real communication, but they’re not communicating with anyone who’s real,” Lemieux said.

Saddened by images of “cutting” and episodes of inebriation, the religion teacher wondered aloud whether society is willing to look at “how damaged our youth are, how abused are their egos and self-esteem.”

He and his colleagues try to address these issues and integrate “a theology of the body” into senior courses, with the goal of getting Kellenberg students to live chastely while in high school and to think seriously about how they treat their bodies, how they interact with the opposite sex and what they seek in a future marriage partner, amid a culture where “moral and sexual relativism is just taken for granted,” Lemieux said.

-- Patricia Lefevere

National Catholic Reporter, April 4, 2008

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