By Dick Kunnert

Yeshua Institute Senior Fellow & Board Member

In the Head module of the Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus, participants are asked to look at the issue of life’s purpose. Why did God make you? You are not an accident.

In God’s worldview, He intended for each of us to be part of the planet. He gave each of us a set of gifts to develop. And for those who suffer disability, He carries the expectation that those of us with gifts will attend to our sisters and brothers who need help.

We are not waifs just set adrift in the world to waste our talents. Actually, parents are to help us focus on what we might do. In best of worlds it is both “kith and kin” – friends and relatives -- who give us direction and support to make our contribution in the world around us. One would assume our faith life would play into this also.

There are signs that this isn’t happening.

Somber signs

A recent public health report in Illinois is showing that suicide is the number one cause of death for Illinois teens. The article lists these as warning signs:

  • Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use;
  • Talking about wanting to die, having no reason for living or no sense of purpose in life;
  • Talking about feeling trapped or like there’s no way out;
  • Talking about feeling unbearable pain or feeling like a burden to others;
  • Becoming socially isolated and withdrawing from friends, family and society;
  • Anxiety, agitation, inability to sleep, or sleeping all of the time;
  • Hopelessness;
  • Dramatic mood changes.

I know depression is a real illness, but the phenomena we are experiencing goes beyond the incidence we would expect from a genetic illness. We are seeing culturally-produced events.

Too many young people appear lost as to their dignity and purpose. Spiritual writer Richard Rohr writes that if we were to really appreciate the fact that we are unconditionally loved by God, rates of addiction to alcohol and drugs would tumble.

God has plans for us

The idea that God has plans for all of us to have a place in the fabric of salvation history needs to be shared and/or reinforced. Young people need to hear they are needed and wanted. All of us need to live for something bigger than ourselves. Young people need to hear that in God’s plan that is their destiny. We can and should put into play our identity as servant leaders.

So taking the time during our Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus to look at our personal mission statement is worthwhile. It is important work.

  • What purpose do I see for myself?
  • What do I choose as my core values?

I grew up believing my purpose is to know, love and serve God in this world, and be with Him in the next. Thank you, Sr. Benedicta, for teaching me that in second grade. I thank my pastor, Msgr. Kerper, for emphasizing being truthful. I may have wandered, but a purpose and vision were reinforced in my life early on and repeated often through faith and family.

We are not accidents

We need to remind ourselves and people around us that we are not accidents, but part of God’s plan for the world. There is a part for us to play.

I have seen suicide take a young, vibrant person down. He had been told by his mother on several occasions that she had never wanted him. I believe it tipped him in ways that none us of will fullly understand.

Love and support are to be the DNA of us as Christians. I sincerely believe one of the most fundamental suicide prevention programs needs to be our expressing often -- and with authenticity -- our love for people in our circle.

God does not make mistakes.  It is the Great Commandant: Love God, our neighbor, and ourselves.