Thursday, October 21, 2010

Making Young People Feel at Home in the Church

There is a great deal of talk  within the Church on the falling away of the young people as they get older. Symposiums in many dioceses are now trying to determine what can be done to keep them within the Church, some suggesting that there needs to be more attention given to improving the faith life of the young.
The Synod in the diocese of Incheon concluded that "Family education is the most important factor for the holistic growth of young people, especially for growth in the faith...Parents have a great responsibility for educating their children in the faith but usually leave this duty to priests, religious, and to religion teachers. Furthermore,  parents restrict their children's faith life and church activities during the preparation time for national entrance examinations."
This is the difficult reality the Church in Korea is faced with. Understanding the obstacles is necessary before we can begin to discuss the situation. The Peace Weekly, in a review of a symposium in the Suwon diocese, mentions  understanding the obstacles is a prerequisite before anything can be done. 

One of  the participants said, "The future of the Church is the young," but, unless the Church implements this understanding with concrete proposals and programs this slogan will remain only a slogan. We have done little in our parishes to make a viable culture where the young will feel comfortable and  thrive.

The diocesan bulletin made the same point with cases of problem children. There is the tendency to put them all in the category of children who have difficulty with puberty or to consider them all juvenile  delinquents--another example of a failure to understand.

The youth in the Church are just like  the other youth  in society they associate with daily. To create a more welcoming environment for our young people, the Church needs to create a culture that is not so radically different from what youth are generally exposed to in the society at large, provided that it does not deviate from the standards of good conduct. Coming to Church will then be something our youth can identify with.

If adults were to look at what the young people see by putting themselves in their position, not expecting them to automatically accept the established adult culture, adults might be more accepting of youth culture. Youth culture can be divided into two categories: school culture and popular culture. In school culture, demands are made on the students, which are accepted at times, compromised with and opposed at other times. Knowing that students will often respond negatively with the school controlling culture, adults should not be surprised at their response outside of the school milieu.

A participant in one symposium pointed out that we are living in a materialistic society that emphasizes its sexual aspects. Even though we are an economically developed country, we have no sex education programs in the schools or in our churches; our young people are getting their sex knowledge from pornographic videos, magazines, books and the internet, among other sources. Consequently, we have one of the worse records in sexual conduct among the young.

The Church should be a place where young people are helped in making decisions involving sex. A step in the right direction would be to have seminaries offering courses in sexual education, the Church providing training for those who teach in Sunday school programs, and setting up centers where the young can go for consultation. The Church should take the lead in order to counteract the free-for-all sexual culture that we have made.

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