In October of 2018, the Catholic Church held a Youth Synod in Rome. The Pope, many cardinals, bishops, youth and others attended. In February 2019, the Holy Father issued a final document on the Synod.
In 2017, the Australian Catholic Bishops conducted a Youth Survey. More than 15,000 Australian young people (this included Ukrainian Catholics) told the bishops what they thought about themselves, the church, and their world.
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I will start with what was said in Rome or on a worldwide level.
The Pope has urged the church to see Christ in young people. He went on to say that young people are the “now of God”. In other words, we can see God in today’s youth. He said that young people are not just the recipients of pastoral ministry, but they are also the Body of Christ to the world. They have the Holy Spirit and the Lord is alive and well in them. They are an enrichment to the church. They are the church’s “present” and not just the church’s future.
In this manner, the young people enrich the church as the Christian community. These are very powerful words and an opportunity to reflect on them.
For them, the most useful ways in which they can engage with the church are liturgies, youth groups, various common activities and musical events.
The Australian survey, which is also very interesting, gives us a chance to hear that young people want to say, and what we should listen to.
Young people in Australia are not against the church. For them, the most useful ways in which they can engage with the church are liturgies, youth groups, various common activities and musical events. This gives pastors a place to start, when they want to start a youth ministry.
When asked, who forms their opinions? You will not be surprized to learn that our youth think parents and family are their greatest teachers, then the school or teachers, friends and lastly the parish or the church.
Young people said they needed help in dealing with personal problems and relationship issues, more faith formation and more help on how to lead a Christian life.
What impressed youth the most was the ability of someone to “listen” to them. Does this mean that the church listens to youth the least of all those on the above list?
In a surprize to me and to others, our young people stated that mental health was their most important issue. Other problem areas were school, drugs and alcohol, body image and friendships and relationships. What is the church doing about any of these things?
So when asked – how can the church help? Young people said they needed help in dealing with personal problems and relationship issues, more faith formation and more help on how to lead a Christian life.
All we need is to “listen” to what is being said, and then have the grace to do something about it.
Finally, when asked about what the church could do for them, especially for those who do not go to church often, young people basically said “use the social media!” Talk to us through the social media. Advertise events. Invite others from other churches to participate. Do not be afraid of those who do not belong to our church.
I’m impressed with what has been done in the church regarding youth in the last few years. All we need is to “listen” to what is being said, and then have the grace to do something about it.
Bishop Peter Stasiuk C.Ss.R. AM
This article was published in The Church and Life Newspaper