February 20, 2001





12,000 teen-agers gather for life lessons

Youths discuss families, parents and value of honesty at religious convention in Anaheim.

Disneyland is only steps away. Skies are clear. And school is in session. So why were 12,000 teen-agers from all over the state cooped up Thursday at the Anaheim Convention Center?

They were talking about how to be nicer to their parents. Honest.

They were discussing how to pick out music that is tasteful. Honest.

They were learning how to get more out of Bible scriptures, and they were loving it. Honest.

It was youth day at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Los Angeles and led by lay ministers, priests and others who teach in church and Catholic schools.

"I really like it. You learn how to make smart decisions in your life," said Ezequiel Adame, 17, of Hesperia, who had just attended a workshop on how to keep your sanity and your sanctity in high school. His youth group from Holy Family Church in Hesperia rented a bus for the trip.

"It's amazing how many kids want to be involved with God and church if they have a chance," said chaperon Lou DeJesus, leading the group toward the arena where Cardinal Roger Mahony celebrated Mass.

Youth day, running through Sunday, has vaulted some speakers to almost rock-star status among the regulars who attend every year.

"We're Bob groupies," explained Nicholas Thomson, 18, of Sacramento "Last year he talked about sexuality. He has fantastic insights."

Bob is Bob Bartlett, a white-haired family therapist from Moundsview, Minn., who is partial to button-down, blue-checked, flannel shirts. This year Bob, who has three kids of his own, was heading up a workshop called "The Exotic, Exciting, Bizarre, Complex World of Parents."

Before the program, he worried that only 30 or 40 kids would show.

"After all, it is about parents," Bartlett said, with that little sarcastic lilt that 15-year- olds master so well. He had competition down the hall in other workshops - a juggler, a rapper and someone talking about sex.

He needn't have worried. Bob drew nearly 400 teens. He took the microphone off the podium and waded into the audience, asking their thoughts. Most thought their parents were pretty cool, though they needed to chill out a bit.

Bartlett told funny and touching stories about the youths he has counseled over the years.

But there was one girl he couldn't reach, he said. A girl on drugs who couldn't understand why her parents were worried. She ended up dead in the backseat of a car in a Minnesota cornfield.

All families are "crazy," he told the kids. And that's OK if it's good craziness such as arguing and relating, and not the abusively crazy.

"Life, after all, is mountains, not the flatlands of South Dakota," he said.

You have to break through parents' resistance sometimes, he said. "In my house, if I had brought up sex, someone would have died at the breakfast table."

Honesty was the big lesson of the workshop. Tell the truth and your parents will trust you. Learn how to say I'm sorry.

Greg Culler, 16, of Sacramento said the workshop inspired him to try communicating more with his parents. "I'll try to talk to them more and about this whole party thing and stuff."

Adult classes will run through Sunday. Tickets for the three-day conference are $60. Check with the congress office about availability. For information, contact the Religious Education Congress at (213) 637-7346 or

Source: By CAROL MCGRAW The Orange County Register


Copyright 2001 Christian -- February 20, 2001