Affirming teenage girls

Recently, while giving a talk to a group of Catholic teen girls, I was struck by an overwhelming sense of just how much young people growing up in today's oversexed and secularized culture really need our prayers, support, positive resources and role models if they are going to live a faith-filled life.

It's not like I didn't realize this before. So, in case you're thinking to yourself, "hello," or "no kidding," indulge me a bit if you will. On this particular day, which was soon after comedian Russell Brand made fun of the Jonas Brothers for wearing promise rings at the MTV Music Video Awards, I was giving a talk to about 40 teens attending, along with their mothers, Johnette Benkovic's Women of Grace conference in Sacramento, Calif.

Now, these young ladies are already one step ahead of the game. Their mothers are obviously committed to their Catholic faith, or at least willing to spend precious time and money to learn more about the Church and their relationship with God. But I still sensed a real need in these young women to be affirmed and to be sent off with a message that, yes, they were on the right track.

There was one young woman in particular who caught my attention. She was listening intently as I shared a painful experience from my high school years -- how my two closest friends had abandoned me after I rejected their repeated efforts to get me to skip class and smoke pot. I told the teens that, in addition to family support and prayer, I moved forward by refocusing my pain and anger into positive activities such as the newspaper and forensics team, and, eventually, I found new friends.

During the question-and-answer session, the young woman was among the very first to ask questions. She wanted the assurance that life does go on even after rejection and even when it's hard to make any friends when very few people around you share the same faith or morals. I did the best I could to reinforce her and the other participants.

After my talk I noticed the same young woman standing outside the main conference room. She looked over at me and gave me a shy smile as if to say "thanks." I went over to her and told her how much I appreciated her attending my session and assured her that staying strong in her faith was indeed the right path to take and that what ever she was experiencing would pass.

I can't forget the look in that beautiful young girl's eyes, nor can I stop thinking of all the challenges our young people are facing from today's culture. In addition to shows such as the new "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Gossip Girls," programs that definitely send an "anything goes" message, the positive role models in the media are few and far between. Even those who do stand their ground when it comes to morality get mocked in the media.

There is so much more we need to do to encourage our young people to stay strong in their Catholic faith. Oh, there are many young people like the teens at the Women of Grace conference or the thousands we see at the March for Life each year who do indeed get it.

Hats off to their parents, but let's hope that in our efforts to evangelize and change our culture, we continue to support and encourage our young people, who are also our future.

The National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families says we can help young people combat the messages of the culture by encouraging an open line of communication, spending quality time together as a family, teaching values and critical-thinking skills, along with staying strong in terms of guidelines for media usage in the home.

Teresa Tomeo is the host of Catholic Connection produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 160.