InsightOut: The Hallelujah Jam of Easter

Andrew Selvam is an alum of the Faculty of Theology who serves as a chaplaincy leader at St. Marguerite d’Youville Catholic Secondary School in Brampton, ON. In his spare time, he…works with kids, so there is no spare time, lol.

Not too long ago, around this time of year, it felt like we were in a different world – a world transformed, where everyone stood a distance apart, where the environment had an opportunity to reset, where you could only see a third of a person’s face and where the classroom was accessible through a computer screen. Fast forward four years and it seems as if life as returned back to normal, that hope has returned, when at times it didn’t seem that it would.

In the latter days of Lent, we are reminded of this beautiful season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The imagery of the season reminds us of the wilderness in which Jesus spends his time as he begins to embark on his ministry.

The season of Lent has always been an opportunity for me to reflect on mine. Now a little closer to home, but in a much larger school, the ministry God has called me to at St. Marguerite d’Youville Catholic Secondary School has changed from my time in South Mississauga. Still very much focused on building community, faith formation, and service opportunities, I get to work with a pretty dynamic community, diverse in nature and energetic to say the least. Every day is an opportunity to engage with students in a way that allows me to accompany them in the desert of whatever they might be going through, and their presence coincidentally does the same for me. No day in the wilderness of teenagers is ever the same, and I don’t think I would have it any other way.

The last days of Lent slowly move towards Holy Week, a period of time where we reflect on the suffering and death of Jesus, but His immense love bursts forth in joy and victory when the stone is rolled away from his tomb three days later. It’s a reminder that Easter is anticipation, Easter is hope, Easter is true joy.

Every morning, I have kids without fail in my office, chatting it up, greeting their friends (they haven’t seen in less than 12 hours) and always asking for food. When I’m not in front of the computer or prepping for the next event in the school, I get the privilege of talking to kids about their lives, about what makes them tick, about their relationships and the status of them, not only about their struggles, but their joys. When I’m not in the office, you can guarantee I am reminded! But each day and most interactions are an opportunity for a little Easter on the daily, a reminder of the joy and hope of young people.

Asking students to commit to their faith is never an easy task. Our schools are the second parent of learning in all aspects for young people. But it’s a challenge that I’ve enjoyed for the last 18 years of education, where there is never a dull moment, and where the reward of seeing a young person change the world in their own way is its own Easter-like reward. The student who still comes to chaplaincy seven months later, the increasing number of students attending mass on a Friday morning at 7:30 am, the students willing to take up space as they embrace their culture and personal excellence, the students who make a school dance feel like a wholesome family celebration, and students ready to hear the cry of those who go without and respond in various ways.

It is said that we are called to be a resurrection people, a people of hope, and I think this becomes increasingly possible when young people are around. From the ones I encounter at school, in my parish youth choir, and youth ministry, I get reminded every day that there is hope, that there is love, and that there is joy! I am insistent on the fact that the Holy Spirit lurks through the walls of every school building, just waiting to get stirred and activated. It always gives me hope to know that young people make that happen. It doesn’t happen overnight, or in three days even, but when the spirit and glory of God is around, transformation happens everywhere, including for me. Hallelujah is a form of praise to God and while it’s a word, it truly encompasses the many ways young people have glorified him in their actions, regardless of their stories and histories. St. John Paul II reminds us firmly that we are an Easter people and hallelujah is our song. I am glad to say that I work with and serve Easter people every day and because of the young people I work with, hallelujah has become our jam!

Read other InsightOut posts.