Monday, April 9, 2012

Young Catholics in a Postmodern Society

The 2010 statistics for the Seoul diocese shows that only about 7 percent of the young are going to Sunday Mass, according to the Catholic Times in its cover story on young persons in the Church.  Without the youth, of course, the Church has no future, and the Catholic Times raises the question whether in fact the Church is no longer of any interest to the younger generation. For this tendency to change, it was suggested, the older generation has to come to grips with the situation and come up with viable solutions.

The fault is thought to lie primarily within the present conditions of our society, and the influence of postmodernist thought, particularly its attacks on the possibility of achieving objective truth. Pastoral workers and educational psychologists have for many years pointed out the problems, proposing solutions but receiving little interest. One priest who works with the youth acknowledges that it is not that simple to solve the problem; that perhaps a long-range outlook is needed. In the early 1980s, when the Church was in the vanguard of the democratization movement, the young flocked to the Church. Toward the end of the 80s, however, they began leaving, and with the inception of the video age, and the attraction of a more sensory oriented experience, the appeal of the spiritual receded. It was at that time that the dioceses began to take an interest in youth affairs.

Although the Church now considers the younger generation as a high priority concern, whether that concern has filtered down into the parochial life of the Church is another question. Some feel that all that is necessary is for that concern to be expressed on the part of parish leaders and change will naturally occur, believing that if the basic instructions of the faith have been given, the young will return.

The article concludes with some of the mistakes that were made: not sufficiently understanding the current difficulties of growing up in our fiercely secular culture; a vertical system of authority within the Church, making it difficult for them to feel at home there; groups  in the  church were for the benefit of the community and not for the youth;  and not enough meaningful work assigned to the youth of the parish, instead of the miscellaneous work usually given--all of which tended to alienate the young from the Church. 

While most believed they were conscious of the problems today's youth have to face, this is far from the truth, the article makes clear. Efforts on the part of the church community must continue to search for ways to change how the young feel about finding meaning within the church community, and to help them grow into responsible adults and persons of faith within that community.

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