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March 23, 2022

Welcome youth back

From The Office of Youth Ministry

BACK AGAIN! Back to a full capacity Mass. We haven’t been able to do this in two years, and what a time it has been. Now, we can make our way from in front our televisions and back into the pews.

Many youth have not attended Mass during the pandemic, but the decline in youth attendance began years before, but there are other young people who continue to go to Mass.

We praise God for their continued attendance, but we know that there are many more young people that should be in church with us.

The Synodal spirit blowing through the Church can positively impact Mass attendance, if we allow it to transform our disposition toward youth. Based on feedback during the Synodal process, we find that our young people haven’t lost faith, but many are disenchanted with their experience in the parish.

We can lament over our youth, or we can begin to problem-solve by contemplating this question, ‘How welcoming is my parish to a young person?’. ‘Welcoming youth’ is more than their Sunday experience. A youth-friendly parish also focuses on the hospitality received by youth and their families, the sense of community life in the parish and the behaviours adult members of the parish model to youth.

If we believe youth as a demographic deserve special attention, to ensure we build young missionary disciples, strong in faith, in love with Christ and His gospel, and generous, in serving their sisters and brothers, then our call to action is clear.

Let us make our parishes youth-friendly. Here are three basic concepts that can help a pastoral council develop its Post-Lockdown Youth Engagement plans.

 

Empowering invitations

Many of us take it for granted the persons in our communities know our Mass times. It does not hurt to go the extra mile and specially invite youth and the families to return to Mass or participate in parish activities.

We can expect that there will be persons not prepared to return, but intentionally reconnecting youth and families, in a way that communicates the love of God and a desire for communion, consistently, is more important. As we invite young persons, we have an opportunity to listen to the reality of their lives and to become more responsive to the current circumstances.

 

Make room for balanced participation

We often lament that more youth don’t participate in the life of the parish. Without feeling empowered as a Catholic parishioner, the experiences of ministry and Mass leave many youth feeling ‘as though [we] being fight down’ by various parish ministry leaders.

We limit youth participation in two ways when we

  • Do not value their talents by creating ministry opportunities
  • Unintentionally exploit their talents due to a lack of adequate adult ministry leaders i.e. ‘Just let the young people do it’ syndrome.

 

This causes some youth to stay away from their home parish or migrate to a parish where they feel valued.

Youth deserve a space in the parish but not without pastoral care and support through intra-ministry mentorship. There is no substitute for this type of leadership development.

Additionally, for minors, we must respect that caregivers must have the final decision in their parish participation. The parish must work with parents to improve adolescent participation and therefore the challenge is empowering the parent to model parish participation.

 

Growth

One of the hardest set of comments from the Synod process is the perception some youth have that many parishioners do not demonstrate Catholic values in ministry affairs.

This may be hard to hear but hear it we must. The growth a parish needs to become youth-friendly also occurs when both youth and adults mature in our faith, allowing us to interact with each other with greater empathy, resilience, grace, and mercy.

Demonstrating that even when there is conflict or miscommunication, our communities prioritise dialogue, healing, justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation, and consequently draws young people into communion in ways that no programme or event can.

The Office of Youth Ministry challenges you to have this conversation with a youth in your life. Is your parish youth-friendly?





 

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