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Reaching and keeping our youth

From the Office of Youth Ministry

As we begin to meet in our various groups at parish and archdiocesan levels to plan for an uncertain future, there will be one theme that is consistent, ‘How can we reach/keep our youth?’.

Since the pandemic began, leaders continue to articulate a desire for young people to return to Mass and to participate in the life of the Church. These concerns are not new.

The proportion of young persons in Trinidad and Tobago has declined over the last 20 years, but the decrease in youth involvement in our parishes cannot be attributed to demographical change.

At various levels of Church and society, the discussion rages, citing increase in atheism, trends in more demanding educational participation, and poor family life, to name a few.

Likewise, everyone has a remedy to get youth involved—from improving the liturgy to spending more money on ministry, they are all touted as ‘the’ panacea.


The Church’s response

Prior to the declaration of the Synod on Synodality, the Vatican released two sets of guidelines to assist in developing a different perspective on ministering to adolescents and young adults.

The documents of the Synod on Youth, and the Pastoral Letter to youth, Christus Vivit (CV), make for exceptional reading. However, they challenge the Church to reframe its ideas about ministering to young people, based on the feedback from young people all over the world. Two major concepts were communicated.

Firstly, if the only persons in the room planning for youth ministry are persons over the age of 35 then we’re only seeking to assuage; young persons are integral in the planning process. We must realise that it is the responsibility of the Church to go to the youth and not wait for them to come to us, even as we plan for them.

In this outreach, we need to use, above all, the language of closeness, “the language of generous, relational, and existential love that touches the heart, impacts life, and awakens hope and desires” (CV 211). It is not enough simply to tell them to show up; we are being challenged to go to them, demonstrating the best of Catholic ethos and virtues.

Secondly, if we desire that our young people grow into their personal vocations and express missionary discipleship, no singular event, programme, or experience is sufficient.

In 2018, as a by-product of the Synod, the Vatican identified synodality as the guiding principle for youth ministry at every level. Synodality is now the perspective de-jour and will be a project with very specific expectations for our Archdiocese.

Within the context of comprehensively ministering to young people, synodality highlights the priority of journeying with consistency throughout their lives and ensuring that they experience the entire Church as interested and invested in their lives, regardless of the labels they assign to themselves.

If you are new to youth ministry, a parent or are a part of another ministry but would like to work with youth ministry, stay tuned for our upcoming event, Youth Ministry 101.


Contact The Catholic Youth Commission via mail:;

visit their Facebook: and their Instagram handle: @rcyctt


Practical implications

The Office of Youth Ministry would like to share with you some recommendations to bring youth ministry alive to your young people:

  • Instead of event, think experience! Don’t get rid of your events or groups but instead when planning for 2022 ask, “What experience do we want our teens and young adults to have of this parish?”
  • No-one walks alone. Family and Youth Ministry must grow together in the parish because every young person comes from a household.
  • Make space! If you want them to participate in the parish, you must create the space. Do you offer opportunities to participate with mentorship? Or are there persons or situations who turn young people away because ‘they may not do it well enough?’.
  • Accept and manage some transience. Allow young persons to participate for a specific amount of time and then allow them to move on to another area.
  • Leaders need ongoing formation. It is the responsibility of everyone seeking to lead youth on behalf of the Church to understand what the Archdiocese requires of them, not just in your area of spiritual engagement but as a part of the wider family of youth ministers (aka the Catholic Youth Commission).