I was never taught how to be the chaplain at a Catholic high school. It was an assignment given to me when I was ordained. So, when I showed up at St. John Central HS in the late summer of 2011, I had a lot to learn - and I would say that I am still learning how to do this job.
Every year at our high school brings new challenges: some that I expect going in - like getting students to sing at Mass - and some that are surprises: teenage drama, adult drama, even the death of a faculty member a couple years ago.
But the one thing that is constant is how I am inspired by our kids.
They inspire me by their kindness, their desire to serve, and - against every stereotype - their thirst for God.
As a priest, I often hear things from older Catholics like, "I just don't know what's going on with kids these days." I'm not mocking them. People are afraid that the values that hold their world together are being lost and, in many facets of the world today, we are under attack.
We should not lose hope, though. It is a tough time to be a teenager. The world is a strange place and they are facing challenges that even I never faced in high school just 15 years ago. In the midst of that chaos, today's young people are still responding to God's call.
I just returned from a retreat with our school's chapter of the Militia Immaculata. It was the second time we have organized a multi-day retreat with the group and had almost twice as many students attend. This was an event they chose to attend - and it was up to them to fully participate.
We heard various talks, prayed together, hung out, played MarioKart 64 ... but the real work had to happen in their hearts with their cooperation.
Like last year, I came away from it energized and encouraged - ready to dive right back into my ministry at St. John's. That wasn't because of anything I did or said on the retreat - it came from the response I saw in the students.
I consider myself extraordinarily blessed to be a high school chaplain. Even when I feel like I don't know what I'm doing, I'm reminded over and over again that God does.
He is working in the hearts of our young people. We just need to trust Him.