CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Bringing schools and parishes closer together

HONG KONG (SE): Around 230 school pastoral workers, teachers and principals from Catholic education institutes in Hong Kong, together with parish youth leaders and priests joined a forum for young people at the Caritas Institute of Higher Education, Tseung Kwan O, on July 15.
Organised by the Diocesan Youth Commission, the forum focussed on how parishes and schools can improve their cooperation level, so that non-Catholic students in Catholic secondary schools who want to further engage the religious dimension of their lives may feel more comfortable in transitioning to a parish to continue their interest in religion.
Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing described the focus of youth pastoral work as journeying with young people at different stages as they mature so that they too can be disciples and serve society and the community in their lives.
The bishop believes that parishes should be at the centre of formation, while schools should be places of evangelisation. He added that if cooperation is effective, young people will seek out parishes to continue their faith formation on their own initiative, even after they leave school.
The auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong said the success of youth work can be measured by whether young people give witness to the presence of God in their families, at school, in the society and in the parish.
He encouraged youth leaders to set a good example themselves and encourage young people in this area.
Father Andrew Fung Ting-wa spoke about effective ways of engaging young people. He explained that they need the understanding and the recognition of others, as well as guidance on the meaning of life.
He believes setting up small faith communities for young people can strengthen their sense of belonging to the parish and give them spiritual support. He added that the social media, as well as an experience of sharing in small groups are good ways of putting this message across.
Father Fung said that he also believes youth work should be incorporated into parish development plans in order to ensure adequate resource are allocated.
Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, the vicar general, made some practical suggestions about cooperation between schools and parishes. Father Chan said there are around 240 Catholic schools in Hong Kong, but only 52 parishes.
He suggested inviting school principals to join parish councils so as to formulate a common direction for youth work.
In addition, secondary school students in the same district can be encouraged to join parish youth activities to promote a better communication between the two organisations.
Father Chan also hopes that a youth group can be set up in every parish and that at least two young people would be invited onto the parish council and encouraged to express their ideas.
During a question and answer session, representatives from Ss. Peter and Paul parish in Yuen Long were invited to share about their experience of forming an oratory, which invites non-Catholic students to join, so as to give them an understanding of Catholic values through recreation activities.
In addition, the parish holds a baptism preparation class in cooperation with a secondary school in the area.
Sister Wule Zhi Yuan Maria Hui, a parish pastoral worker, said a diversity of activities can help to attract young people to a parish. She added that she often goes to the nearby secondary school to keep in touch with the young people.
Young parishioners at St. Jude’s in North Point also shared how they have worked together with teachers at Catholic schools.
Fan Shi-yuen said he joined a baptism class in the parish with the encouragement of his teacher at school a few years ago and has helped the parish to set up a booth at the Caritas Bazaar with other young people each year since then.
He said he was happy to have had the chance to make friends who have been journeying with him and that he was especially touched when they supported him and prayed for him when his results of the Diploma of Secondary Education Examination were about to be released.
Father Paul Kam Po-wai, the chairperson of the Diocesan Youth Commission, said he hopes that the forum can gather people who are involved in youth work and let them share about their work and challenges.
He told the Kung Kao Po that the commission currently sets its priorities around small faith communities and school-parish cooperation.
Father Kam added that the role of youth leaders is important as they are people who can help others to build up a Catholic identity, so long as they have a strong sense of mission themselves.

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