At forum, teen-agers have faith

November 14, 1996|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

Religion is a touchy topic in any age group -- especially for teen-agers making their way in asecular world.

But a group of 40 high school students who attended an interfaith forum at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore yesterday surprised themselves with the depth and enthusiasm they have for their respective faiths.

"Faith is a difficult thing. It's really comforting to come to a place like this and find other people talking about it," said Alison Haygood, a senior from Garrison Forest School.

Said Marco Gentile, a junior at Archbishop Spalding High in Severn: "I never really thought that many of my peers had these kind of deep thoughts."

The occasion was the seminary's second interfaith forum, which drew students from eight area high schools and remarks by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch.

"I'm not sure of everyone's name, but I know what religion people bTC are," said Genevieve Lawrence of Mercy High School as she attempted to introduce the members of her discussion group.

Around the room she went: Catholic, Jew, "nondenominational," Catholic, Hindu, Protestant.

In general, however, "religion is not popular," said Chris Finnegan, a Calvert High senior and nondenominational Christian. "It's something [students] only experience on a Sunday, if they give it any thought."

But that was not the case at the forum, where the focus was religious heritage and the Old Testament story of the prophet Abraham, who heard the call of God to leave his homeland.

"Today if anyone hears a voice, they are either on drugs or mentally ill," said Stewart Katzenberg of Boys Latin School. "We are a lot less accepting of voices from God."

"I don't really think it's changed all that much," countered Lawrence. "It's never been easy to be religious."

Although their opinions were as diverse as their religious backgrounds, the students accepted their differences.

When a Hindu student from The Friends School sat silent during the Scripture discussion, to which he could not relate, several students voiced concern about his feeling left out.

"I've never discussed religion with a Jew," said Erin Gleich of Lanham, a junior at Bishop Spalding, a Catholic high school in Severn. "Through talking to others, you learn about yourself."

Pub Date: 11/14/96

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