TEC: A movement of Catholic spirituality for older adolescents and young adults
Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) is a movement of spirituality. It is founded and unfolds within the living traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. At its core is an evangelizing process which is initiated within an adult community of believers, is shared through a specially designed weekend, and is continually renewed through shared experience within a community of youth and adults.
TEC's unique spiritual vision is centered in the Paschal Mystery. This core truth of our faith is not presented within the format of academic theology, but through the meshing of life with life as the Paschal Mystery is lived out in concrete human experience.
TEC is a dynamic, life-giving experience in which a person is invited by the Risen Christ to open his/her heart and to share in a personal way his life, death and resurrection. Reflectively, the candidates come to see Christ's mystery relived in their own daily life cycle of struggles, joys and triumphs as they move forward on their pilgrim journey to the fullness of life with the Triune God.
At its core, TEC involves prayer centered in Christ -- prayer of praise, thanksgiving and petition, but most especially the prayer of sacrifice, the complete self-gift of oneself to God and to the community.
TEC is a movement of the Church, by the Church, and for the Church. The term Church as used here is understood as the Roman Catholic Church, with special emphasis on the Sacramental and Communion of Saints models of that tradition. As such, the movement must be accepted and approved by the local ordinary as an officially recognized evangelizing agency within the diocesan community.
Although some TEC centers accept younger as well as older candidates, the Movement is primarily designed for those who are at least seniors in high school or older. Its focus is on young adults between the ages of 17 and 24 who are experiencing the period of passage but for the sake of simplicity the participants will be referred to as young adults in this section. The life tasks arising out of the psychological, spiritual, and moral orientation of this age group are distinct. The developmental stage proper to them uniquely sets them apart both from younger adolescents and from later young adult growth stages. They are also in a period of transition when they are sorting out life values making them open to the Gospel vision.
Older adults who are engaged in the movement serve as companions and mentors to facilitate and sustain the spiritual dialogue among youth and young adults within this age range. This responsibility calls for ongoing spiritual growth on the part of adult leaders. It also implies a willingness to be touched by the faith witness of young people. The purpose of their presence is to foster an intimate relationship with the Lord through their quality relationships shared with young people in an intergenerational faith community.
Essential to the TEC weekend is its communal nature, both in the manner of its sharing and the conversion it evokes. The participants must come to know one another at a depth of intimacy conducive to quality spiritual sharing. Hence, the very nature of this component precludes a group larger than 40 participants on any one weekend. The composition of the community also enters into the essential nature of the weekend. In order to provide for freedom from the restrictions placed on them by their ordinary environment and thus enable them to make a "new beginning," they must come from a variety of schools and/or parishes.
The TEC process unfolds within the faith awareness of the young adults who are drawn together into the experience. The structural format of the weekend is only a setting in which this dialogue takes place. Each young adult comes with a distinct spiritual history and profile of which the adults co-living the process must be conscious and protective. The level and quality of the spiritual dialogue created within and among the candidates and the adult faith community ultimately determines the effectiveness of the process.
The TEC experience involves elements of pre-evangelization, evangelization, catechesis, and service. Each phase of the spiritual process calls the participants to a response in faith and conversion and invites them to share their new-found vision through their self-gift to God and their neighbor. TEC is initiation, an encounter with the presence of Christ experienced as a friend.
The TEC process unfolds within the design of the liturgical year through which the Church celebrates the Paschal Mystery of Christ in its annual Lent-Easter-Pentecost cycle, and in the weekly observance of the same mystery through the celebration of the Lord's Day. It achieves its effect by proclaiming the wonderful works of God, thus evoking a response of awe, praise, and love. Christ is encountered through liturgy, scripture, teaching and the witness of Christian living--within the matrix of a living community where the presence of Christ and the young adult is accepted, affirmed, and celebrated.
Primary emphasis must be placed upon the dynamic and living dialogue in the weekend format. However, the design model used for the realization of TEC's goals must be respected and followed. In the unfolding of the process, each step of the three days builds on the previous step as the consciousness of the young adult is raised towards the faith vision desired. (Cf. The Essential Elements of the TEC Weekend.)
The quality of the TEC movement depends ultimately on the quality and training of the adult faith community. Preparation for a TEC weekend involves a team of adults and young adults chosen because of their psychological soundness and their commitment to personal spiritual growth. They must have an adequate understanding of the goals and purpose of TEC and be familiar with the methodology and techniques employed in the process to achieve these goals.
The ultimate responsibility for the quality of the spirituality and core message of TEC rests with the spiritual director of the local movement, who receives this spiritual mandate from the local bishop. In this person's hands rests the responsibility for the authenticity of the Roman Catholic Christian teaching and praxis in all aspects of the movement.
Together with the spiritual director, a core group of adults should be discerned to aid in authenticating and moderating the charism of TEC in the local movement. The primary task of this group is the building up of an adult faith community which models and articulates the spirituality of the Church. They must be gifted with special sensitivity to the needs of the young adults with whom they hope to mediate the Paschal Mystery through the experience of a living faith community.
The TEC Movement involves a prolonged commitment on the part of the adult leaders. Their role is not only to serve as faith models on the weekend, but as permanent graces to the young atults who have made the weekend, being open to them in sharing and in time. They should be adept at maintaining a community that is characterized by a spirit of hospitality, genuine concern for each individual, and the stability of ongoing presence and availability. The focal point of their role does not lie in answering the question, "What do we do?" but rather in addressing the question, "Who are we for others?"
The purpose of the weekend is to initiate an ongoing process of evangelization and catechesis. A catechetical scope and sequence is woven into the very format of the TEC weekend. Catechesis also takes place within the on-going relationships and dialogue as questions of faith arise both on the weekend and in later gatherings. TEC is a parallel to, but not a substitute for, formal classes in religion or for participation in parish youth groups. It is designed to provide a faith vision which will enhance participation in such classes and groups as it creates an abiding thirst for God.
The TEC Movement is effective to the degree to which it enters deeply into the youth culture and serves to inform and form it.
TEC is founded on freedom, both in the choice of making the weekend, and in being involved in the opportunities the weekend experience provides. The maturity of the team is to assure this atmosphere and attitude of freedom. Only if the young adults make the process freely and spontaneously their own, will it take root in them in a lasting way.
The TEC Movement cannot effectively be started through reading literature. It must be lived before it is comprehended. Hence, the proper way to bring it into a diocese is to send a number of adults and young adults to experience the TEC weekend in a diocese where it is already fully operative. Then, after consultation with the TEC Conference, through sharing and reflection, the process may be started locally.
It is preferable that a workshop for priests and lay leaders be given before the movement is started in a new diocese. These workshops should be conducted under the direction of the TEC Conference, which will provide teams who have sufficient knowledge and experience to convey the proper insights.
A constant talent search must be conducted for adults who can work effectively with young adults through the TEC movement. It is preferable that these adults be drawn from the schools and parishes from which the participating young adults come so as to assure continued contact with them on a familiar basis. The local TEC movement must provide workshops and opportunities for spiritual growth for the adult leaders. They must be persons who demonstrate both individual as well as communal witness as active participants in their local Catholic parish community, as well as in TEC. Only those adults who meet certain basic standards of maturity, both psychologically and spiritually, may be allowed to come into contact with young adults.
The TEC movement must be in constant dialogue with all aspects of young adult ministry. TEC operates more in the area of pastoral care and formation than in the area of formal religious education. The local TEC movement, in concert with the local diocesan offices of youth and young adult ministry or religious education, must provide the young adults who have become part of its community with opportunities for growth in their faith life, prayer, and involvement in the life and mission of the Church.
Formation programs within the TEC community should include the following elements:
Continuity--building bridges between the TEC experience and the ongoing faith life of the Church as expressed in the four signs of scripture, liturgy, teaching and witness.
Journey - growth towards maturity in our relationship with God and one another.
Discipleship - the commitment to follow Christ and to make the Kingdom values one's own.
Apostleship - commitment to share the Good News of the Kingdom by participating in the mission of the Church.
A sense of reverence and awe - an invitation to encounter God as Other, evoking a sense of wonderment.
Acknowledgement of the human development stages - with programs designed to meet the distinct needs of later adolescents and young adults.
Fostering an intimate relationship with Jesus in the Church community. Being sensitized to and actively involved in peace and justice issues.
TEC is not per se an ecumenical movement. TEC clearly identifies itself with the Roman Catholic Christian tradition. The core truths as understood in that tradition are the primary focus of all of its processes and goals. TEC is built upon participation in the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. All of the meditations, discussions, and para-liturgies are developed so as to prepare the candidates to experience in a more meaningful way these key sacramental encounters with Christ. The celebration of the sacraments is an essential component of TEC.
The participation of young adults who do not belong to the Catholic Church may come about in two ways. Individuals may join their Catholic peers for a TEC weekend. Those who apply as candidates must be made fully aware of the Catholic context of the weekend. Their own faith tradition must be respected and protected. They must be made fully aware that they may not participate in the sacraments, in accord with Church law. Their number may not be so proportionately large as to infringe on the experiencing of a fully Catholic faith response in the community.
The second way in which persons who do not share the Catholic Faith may share in the TEC experience is through the reaction by knowledgeable and experienced members of another Christian tradition of the TEC methodology. Such sharing should be done by dialogue between persons in the Catholic TEC community and members of the other Christian community, so as to put the TEC process at the service of the best elements in the spirituality of their tradition. The core truth, the Paschal Mystery, should be common to both. However, in the translation of that mystery into concrete realization as it is reflected in faith stances, sacramental understanding, and moral imperatives would normally be quite distinct. In this way, both traditions can be better prepared for sharing more deeply in the Mystery of Christ's death and resurrection wherein we ultimately find our unity and peace.