Want Generation Z to pray? This Catholic school has a book for that

By Joe Higgins, 14 November 2019
St Thomas More College, Sunnybank, assistant principal for religious education John Thomas and campus minister Marnie Hewitt with a copy of the Gen Z Prayer Book. Image: The Catholic Leader.


Chances are you know someone in Generation Z.

They are digital natives who are predicted to work 18 jobs in six careers and live in 15 homes in their lifetime.

Generation Z was also the least religious generation.

Two staff at St Thomas More College, Sunnybank, have taken on this challenge by publishing the 95-page Gen Z Prayer Book.

St Thomas More assistant principal religious education John Thomas and campus minister Marnie Hewitt both wanted a resource to engage Gen Z.

Everything out there was from the 1970s, Ms Hewitt said.

What the pair ended up with was a sleek, modern book that aesthetically was closer to an Instagram feed than a volume of the Summa Theologica.

It retained a Catholic feel with traditional prayers – from Our Father to Salve Regina – filling the front section and prayers written by St Thomas More students, teachers and parents filling the middle.

The last section was prayers for life events like birthdays.

Ms Hewitt said many young people had never been spiritually nurtured or experienced sacramental care.

The book would help with that.

“It’s a big step for them to be open to (spirituality), because if they’re not raised to be open to spirituality, it’s quite foreign,” Ms Hewitt said.

“That’s why journeying with them is so important.

“Because you get them comfortable and you get them familiar with you, and once they’re familiar with you, they’ll be open to what the source and summit of your life is.”

Mr Thomas said if you wanted to build young Catholics who were connected to their faith, it took investment – both time and money.

Mr Thomas found it was cheaper to print 600 copies of the Gen Z Prayer Book than budget for photocopying similar limited-use texts.

It took some persuasion, the pair agreed, but Mr Thomas had inroads and relationships with the right people and he was “very persuasive”.

“We have the attitude, if we’re sitting around doing nothing, then there are opportunities that we should be taking,” Mr Thomas said.

Ms Hewitt said the benefit of students being able to take the book home and put in the bookshelf was beyond anything a photocopy would ever achieve.

“If I had a resource like this when I was at school, I’d appreciate it, because someone put a lot of effort into that,” Ms Hewitt said.

“We’ve had a lot of traction even with people wanting to give them as graduation gifts.”

Mr Thomas said St Thomas More had an edge when it came to ministry.

“We’ve actually got a larger proportion of students who are actually engaged in Church than many other parishes,” he said.

“Our Lady of Lourdes at Sunnybank is really vibrant and busy and we’re connecting in with that.”

While the book wouldn’t find a proper place in curriculum, it was invaluable for the school’s prayerful devotions.

St Thomas More College has a “big bell tower” and each Wednesday morning two Year 7s, who Mr Thomas affectionately calls “Quasi” and “Modo”, go and ring the bell for the Angelus.

The prayer book has the Angelus in it.

Also, during last month as mission month, the staff have been doing the mission rosary – all the prayers are in the book.

The contemporary prayers were then on a needs basis.

Were you stressed before an exam, Mr Thomas said, then flip to page such-and-such.

The pair already had a new book at the printer, a retreat journal for school retreats.

Mr Thomas said having a long-term view of what you want to do was essential.

“We don’t get everything right – that’s the other thing – and we spend a lot of time reflecting on the things we do and what didn’t work and why it didn’t work,” he said.

It has paid off.

The pair said many Year 12 leaders next year were involved in their faith and were already youth leaders this year.

“So that’s going to be really exciting to see a lot of leaders are going to have… a faith, which is going to be so unique,” Ms Hewitt said.

To buy a copy of the prayer book, contact John Thomas at: jthomas@stmc.qld.edu.au

By Joe Higgins. Reproduced with permission from The Catholic Leader, the online news publication of the Archdiocese of Brisbane.


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