CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 September 2018

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Our mission to accompany the newly-baptised

Starting this Sunday, March 4, the diocese will celebrate the Scrutinies and the Rite of Anointing for catechumens over three successive Sundays. Preliminary statistics show that around 2,800 people will be baptised into the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil Mass on March 31. Each one of the faithful is called upon to accompany these new family members and to help keep their faith lighted.
 
Over the past decade, two to three thousand people have been baptised every year. According to the latest Hong Kong Catholic Church Directory, the number of local Catholics reached 601,000 last August. Unfortunately, the number of those who actually go to church may be less than a third of that number.
 
According to the Survey on the Ongoing Formation of New Catholics, released by the Diocesan Commission for Ongoing Formation of the Laity (DCOFL) in 2014, 40 per cent of newly-baptised Catholics attend Mass every Sunday, 30 per cent attend frequently, over 10 per cent attend occasionally, while three per cent seldom attend. 
 
Many parishes try very hard to make use of the Period of Mystagogy—the seven weeks from Easter Sunday to Pentecost—by introducing various formation programmes to deepen their faith. The Diocesan Liturgy Commission and the Central Council of Catholic Laity co-sponsor some of these programmes. 
 
Last year, Holy Cross parish and the DCOFL co-organised the first-ever ongoing formation programme for new Catholics. The purpose was to give new Catholics 10 months of formation after the Period of Mystagogy. Where circumstances permit, there is a chance that this programme can be extended to other parishes.
 
However, changes in the demographic profile of society and the Church, including major changes in the youth population structure, have posed challenges to formation and evangelisation. 
 
The government's 2016 Population By-census Report, showed that the number of young people aged 15 to 24 decreased from 880,000 in 2006 to 776,000 in 2016. Moreover, in 2016, 395,000 young people had received post-secondary education—much higher than the figure of 275,000 2006. So, do evangelisers and formators need to equip themselves to provide more relevant pastoral care in youth ministry?
 
The Hong Kong Diocese is presently observing the Year of Youth. Many parishes and Catholic schools are answering the call for parish-school collaboration by offering young people activities which can enable them to encounter their faith or deepen it. 
 
Whether the ministry and pastoral care are relevant to the needs of young people and inspire them depends on the cooperation between families, parishes and schools, as well as a renewal in the attitudes. By doing so, the challenges posed by young people in families and in society be properly responded to.
 
While it is important that formation programmes meet the needs of the new Catholics we must also strive to build a community of love so that the faithful can grow together in the Church community.
 
As Pope Francis said, "Go and share in the lives of others: accompany them on their journey of faith, that they might grow in faith along their way." SE