Young People, Please Wait for Us
We need not look far to see facts and figures that could be construed as hopeless. Churches are shrinking, sacrament reception is down, and the average age that a young person stops identifying as Catholic is 13 years old. All of this could have been said prior to our current state of pandemic.
We must not lose hope! Investing in youth ministry is paramount; helping young people understand the role that faith and a relationship with Christ plays in their life as we journey through these times of uncertainty must be a priority.
Christ is Alive and He Wants You to be Alive.
This is the opening statement in his Apostolic Exhortation, Christus Vivit. Pope Francis addresses all Christian young people as well as pastors and faithful alike to challenge and urge us to reflect on the lives of youth and their home within the church. Arguably, this is even more important now than when it was published in April of 2019.
Regardless of our age, all people can grow discouraged and forget the call we have all received to live fully alive in Christ! Perhaps looking around at the current state of affairs causes you to feel disheartened, discouraged, or helpless.
Pope Francis reminds us, “If you have lost your inner vitality, your dreams, your enthusiasm, your optimism and your generosity, Jesus stands before you as once he stood before the dead son of the widow, and with all the power of the resurrection he urges you: [young and old alike] “Young man, I say to you, arise!” (Lk. 7:14)
Who better to lead the way and show us how to live with vitality, enthusiasm, optimism and generosity but the youth among us?
We Must Not Forget the Gifts of Young People.
Throughout the Old and New Testament, the Lord worked through young people time and time again. This has not changed.
The great saints our young men and women look up to are their peers. They are holy men and women who were teenagers when they responded to God’s call. They look to St. Dominic (age 14)….Bl. Chiara Badano (age 19)…..even Our Lady… Let us remember too, the hidden life of Jesus who was accompanied by His community.
We must not assume age as an inability to do amazing things for the Lord. We cannot forget our youth are confirmed by the Holy Spirit as we are, with gifts to share and a mission of their own. Young people are not the future of the Church, they are the Church.
Once again, who better to lead the way and show us how to live with vitality, enthusiasm, optimism and generosity but the youth among us?
Better Together; Roots and Mission
“Youth, as a phase in the development of the personality, is marked by dreams which gather momentum, by relationships which acquire more and more consistency and balance, by trials and experiments, and by choices which gradually build a life project. At this stage in life, the young are called to move forward without cutting themselves off from their roots, to build autonomy but not in solitude.”
As Lay Ecclesial Ministers those of us who serve in youth ministry have the charge to aid young people in setting down roots in the church and building autonomy within a faith community! We can never and should never, take the place of the role that the domestic church has in the lives of young people. But, we can and should be working in tandem with parents to provide a home for young people within the church.
“Sharing in the function of Christ, priest, prophet and king, the laity have an active part of their own in the activity of the church. Their activity within the church communities is so necessary that without it the apostolate of the pastors will frequently be unable to obtain its full effect.”
Pastors, religious, and laity alike; the vital role of listening to, inviting and accompanying young people falls on all of us and cannot be taken lightly.
We Must Make Room for the Voices of Young People to be Heard
How are we involving youth in our parish communities and giving them a seat at the table? Scouting, Totus Tuus, invitations to participate in parish wide events, Junior High or High School Youth Ministry? Perhaps a literal seat on the Parish Council?
The statistics show that these opportunities matter. Newly ordained priests and consecrated religious attest to the impact that scouts, youth ministry and serving as altar servers had on their vocations. Young adults attribute the current practice of their faith as a reflection of their high school faith practice.
“Youth ministry has to be synodal; it should involve a “journeying together” that values “the charisms that the Spirit bestows in accordance with the vocation and role of each of the Church’s members, through a process of co-responsibility…Motivated by the spirit, we can move towards a participatory and co-responsible Church, one capable of appreciating its own rich variety, gratefully accepting the contributions of the lay faithful, including young people and women, consecrated persons, as well as groups, associations and movements. No one should be excluded or exclude themselves.”
Are We Running the Race?
In closing let us reflect with hope on the conclusion of Chrisus Vivit and ask ourselves have we ourselves been running the race? Where have the young people arrived that we have not yet reached?
Dear young people, my joyful hope is to see you keep running the race before you, outstripping all those who are slow or fearful. Keep running, “attracted by the face of Christ, whom we love so much, whom we adore in the Holy Eucharist and acknowledge in the flesh of our suffering brothers and sisters. May the Holy Spirit urge you on as you run this race. The Church needs your momentum, your intuitions, your faith. We need them! And when you arrive where we have not yet reached, have the patience to wait for us. (299)
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 Saint Mary’s Press of Minnesota and CARA. 2017. Going, Going, Gone: The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics. Winona: Saint Mary’s Press
 Final Document of the Fifteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (FD), no 65.
 Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Apostolate of the Lay People (Apostolicam Actuositatem) no, 10. See also Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) no.33, and Congregation for the Clergy et al. Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful In the Sacred Ministry of Priests (Ecclesiae de Mysterio) (Washington, DC: USCCB-Liberia Editrice Vaticana, 1998), Foreword.
 Christus Vivit 206. See also FD, no. 123