Tuesday, June 14, 2011
This should come as a big surprise to those not familiar with the Korean situation, especially when only about 7 percent of the young are attending Sunday Mass. In the year 2009 we had an even larger number baptized. What is the reason for such a large number of young people being baptized?
The influence of the military in the evangelization of the young is an important factor. Nearly 86 percent of those baptized in the 20-24 age group are in the military; last year 25,234 were baptized, and 34,463 in 2009. During the same period last year the Seoul diocese baptized in this age group only 1,543. Since the year 2,000 each year there has been over 10,000 entering the Church from this age group. Although the statistics show a decrease in the overall number being baptized, the number of young people entering the Church is an encouraging sign.
Since we have a larger number of elderly in the Church, the absence of the young is quickly noticed. One method of correcting the imbalance is to work more with the young. And since the military has been such a successful area in evangelization, more attention should also be placed there. After military service these young men will be returning to their hometowns and getting involved in the affairs of their communities. They can be a leaven for the future growth of the Church and its influence in society.
When these young people return to civilian life the diocese and parishes should make efforts to nurture the faith life of these young men so they can more easily set down roots in their home parish. There has been a history of losing many of these young men after they leave the military, civilian life often being less congenial than the camaraderie of military life. To meet this challenge requires concern on the part of the receiving community to make them feel welcomed and to help them continue to deepen their faith life.