Youth—Developing a Healthy Self before God was the theme of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish’s Lenten Mission which took place from Monday, March 5 to Friday 9. The guest speaker and retreat director was clinical therapist and traumatologist Hanif Benjamin. He is also the founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Centre for Human Development Limited (TCHD) and Chairman of the Board of Management at the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago.
San Fernando parish priest Fr Martin Sirju sought to target young adults (roughly from Confirmation teens to those in their 20s) as well as their parents/guardians, thus giving a voice to the many unheard issues that youth face every day within their homes and schools. Each night delved deeper into the ideologies of self-respect, fabricating identities, trauma and ways to develop healthy habits within ourselves.
“Understanding the vessel we carry—our bodies” and deepening an awareness of the domains of “self-respect” including the physical and spiritual self were the core messages of the first night’s discussion.
Knowing oneself is a prerequisite to your ability to love, thus, it is important for young people to understand their bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit and therein should be treated with self-respect. It is also integral that parents help to create a firm spiritual foundation for their children, guiding them on their life’s journey for meaning and purpose.
A young child was once asked, ‘If you were to become something when you die, what would you be and why?’ She responded, ‘A cellphone….because mommy would grab for me first thing in the morning; she would make sure I am always clean and safe because I am expensive.’ This is the ominous reality faced by many young children that Benjamin highlighted on the second night.
Focusing on the dangers of social media and the many “fabricated identities” that we all wear on a daily basis, Benjamin emphasised the importance of teaching our youth what we “should be” and not who “we are”. He challenged each person to ask themselves, “Have you reached your self-actualisation or are you wearing a mask? Parents, are you developing youth to see their true self?” These were some of the questions that captured the evening’s message to inspire us all to make conscious efforts to chart the course for our young people and set the example from birth.
Taking pause to self-reflect was done during the Penitential service which took place on the Wednesday. “Hurting people hurt people” was the mantra for the fourth night as the impacts of trauma was examined, bringing to the surface the countless traumatic experiences young people face on a daily basis. From peer pressure in school, to performance and failure in examinations, to children going through the rollercoaster of a divorce; these were just a few of the reasons our youth are being stripped of their self-confidence and personalities.
We often view trauma through a prism, however, if we first seek to understand the issues affecting our youth, we can expand our frames of reference, and help them to adopt healthy ways to create their own closure and be released from the bondage of trauma.
On Friday night was the closing Mass celebrated by Fr Sirju, and the final presentation by Benjamin on developing healthy habits. He postulated ten ways in which we can develop healthy habits within ourselves. They are: “Know yourself; forgive yourself; accept yourself; work on building your confidence; maintain a positive attitude; stop trying to keep up with everyone; cast aside envy; believe in your choices; learn to handle feedback; and don’t let others get to you.” – Sarah Dwarika