CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 January 2018

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Evaluating youth ministry in the Year of Youth

Hong Kong (SE): Divine Word Father Stephen Bevans, guided a three-day study camp for the clergy of the Hong Kong diocese on the theme, Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment, from January 3 to 5 at the Holy Spirit Seminary College. 
 
Making his deliberations on the preparatory document for the forthcoming Synod of Bishops on Young People, the professor emeritus of Mission and Culture at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, quoted Pope Francis: “Take a risk. Whoever does not risk, does not walk. ‘But, what if I make a mistake?’ Bless the Lord! You will make more mistakes if you remain still!” 
 
This is the challenge that confronts not just the youth, but people of all ages everywhere: to take risks, he said.
 
There was a flurry of queries and comments from priests on the pains, challenges and future of their ministry among young people. Many shared their anxieties that changing lifestyles in a highly commercialised world and the dwindling state of vocations to the priesthood and religious life are alarm bells for the Church. 
 
On a lighter note on the pope’s call to take risks someone quipped: “Is it ok to give up when one feels that the risk taken to begin a family or religious life failed?”
 
Another opinion offered was that the socio-economic status of the people seems to determine religious practices in the world today. 
 
Churches are empty and vocations are drying out in many of the first-world countries whereas there are plenty of vocations to priesthood and religious life from the developing nations. 
 
Taking a cue from Pope Francis, one suggestion that was brought up was to prepare and preach good homilies and develop beautiful choirs to bring the young people back to the pews. 
 
“The upcoming Synod of the Bishops is an occasion for the Church to do some serious introspection and critical evaluation on its response to the pastoral care for youth,” Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung said in his introductory remarks.  
 
The bishop went on to say, “The synod is relevant not just for the youth but it is equally significant for the adults, parents and pastors. The synod is also not about the future, but it is about the ‘now’.”
 
The synod is a wake-up call from Pope Francis to young people and to the Church at large to respond to the culture of comfort of the sofa! 
 
At World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, in 2016, the pope urged young people not to seek the sofa comforts but rather, be impelled by the missionary thrust to be on the go to share the joy of the gospel. 
 
Missionhurst Father Dominique Mukonda, chairperson of the Diocesan Youth Commission, spoke on the situation of the young people and the youth ministry in the diocese.
 
He stressed the importance of listening to their needs and not “not only trying to do and see things from our own perspectives as adults or Church representatives.”
 
Father Mukonda suggested working together with young people “based on their own views and situations too.”
 
He said that listening involves risk, but brings with it hope and changes.

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