Thursday, June 16, 2011

Young Catholics Straying from Religion

One of the problems the Church is facing in Korea is the declining attendance of young people at Sunday Mass. Reporting on a survey made in the Seoul diocese, the Peace Weekly headlined the article, "Only 7 high school students attend out of 100." And even after they enter college, the article added, numbers do not improve.

Improving this situation is a task the Church has decided to take on. The article mentioned that the average funding of parish Sunday school programs was only about 5 percent of the budget. This has not changed much over the years.

Efforts to improve the situation have taken many different routes; an interesting attempt was made by a parish in the Suwon diocese. They hired a full-time youth minister. This is a rather unique solution. no doubt because of the expense.

The parishes do have volunteers who take care of the teaching and the youth activities of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine but few parishes would have a full-time employed staff member. The pastor brought the problem to the attention of the parishioners by noting,  "There is a limit to what a priest with volunteers can do to activate the young people. We need someone with ability and zeal for the task."

That someone was the youth minister. He has majored in music and will be responsible not only for the music program but also for getting the youth back to the Church. When they have programs in the parish for the youth, he goes through the youth registers, makes a list of all the young people, and sends them an  invitation. A list of a thousand names does not deter him.

The youth minister wondered how any priest with the work they have to do can also find time to minister to the youth of the parish. On Sundays, when he often doesn't have time to eat he still finds the work very satisfying. The parish council head has said that a notable change has taken place in the care of the parish young people. The pastor now has a co-worker who is responsible for the pastoral care of the young. Depending on its success and how quickly the word spreads to other parishes and dioceses, we will no doubt hear more of this approach to the young people of the parish.

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