Sts. Simon and Jude switches gears with Teen Life

February 07, 2000

Eron Ben-Yehuda

HUNTINGTON BEACH -- For high school students who don't think religion can

be cool, a local church thinks you should learn about life.

Teen Life, a program at Sts. Simon and Jude Church, makes Catholicism

"more up to date," director Martina Palmer said.

"Usually, we get the rap of being stuffy and very serious," she said.

That turns off many young people, said Vanessa Duquette, 17, who joined


the program three years ago.

"When you hear an older person, you think, 'That's their deal,"' she


So every Sunday night, the children take charge.

While most older members of the congregation attend a traditional Mass in

the morning, those who enjoy a little walk on the "wild" side should wait

until 5 p.m., Palmer said.

That's when about 1,000 people typically show up to hear more than just

the Gospel read by a priest. A six-piece band accompanies the service in

which children perform the biblical readings, she said.

"It really rocks," she said.

The band includes three canters, an electric and bass guitar, and drums.

"A lot of the old-school Catholics are like, 'What is this?,"' she said.

But the music grows on you, she said.

"It's not like we're singing David Bowie songs," she said. "They're

Catholic songs that are a little more funky."

After Mass, a group of about 60 children head over to the Youth Center by

the church for a $3 dinner followed by a discussion on topics close to

their hearts, such as friendship and, with Valentine's Day coming up,

love, Palmer said.

Palmer leads the group in discussing, for example, the difference between

lust and true love -- but another type of love is also touched on, she


"Obviously, Jesus loves us unconditionally because he died for our sins,"

she said.

Vanessa is active in the program.

"I not only found a group of friends there," she said, "we are almost

like a family."

Although she considers herself a serious person, Vanessa does enjoy the

social events the program offers, such as the upcoming broomball game at

the church's gym on Feb. 27.

The competition hails from another parish, St. John the Baptist in Costa


"It's like soccer with brooms," Palmer said. "It's just a big, fun


City Councilman Ralph Bauer agrees that religion ought to be taught in

"today's language," but he worries that the fundamental tenants of the

faith may be diluted in the process.

Palmer said her program has successfully avoided that.

"They're not watered down -- none whatsoever," Palmer said. "We do

exactly what's taught by our priest and our church."

Vanessa enjoys sharing her experience with God, and she counts on others

in her peer group to open up as well, she said. Life is more satisfying

with God in your life, she said.

"It's kind of like putting on a new pair of glasses," she said. "You can

see the world in a different perspective. You kind of have the confidence

that you can change the world a little bit."


WHAT: Teen Life

WHERE: Sts. Simon and Jude Church, 20444 Magnolia St., Huntington Beach.

WHEN: 6 to 8 p.m. Sundays

TELEPHONE: 965-9405

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