Is the Church obsolete? A relic of the past that is no longer relevant in the modern world, especially for our young people? Looking over the statistics for 2010, a professor at Sogang University notes that although attendance of adults at Sunday Mass is low (30 percent), attendance of the young is even lower, much lower at less than 7 percent. The young people, he says, are leaving the Church quietly.
his opinion on the open forum page of the Catholic Times, he believes
this situation could have been foreseen by the way the young students
were not attending their Sunday school classes. They did attend while in
grammar school, but on entering middle and high school the expectations
to do well, along with the intense preparations for the college
entrance exams, was more important to them than attending Mass. More
attention should be given, he says, to educating the parents on what is necessary for raising mature and responsible Christians.
young are not only leaving the Church because of outside interests.
Being Catholic, he says, no longer has the attraction it once did for
many of them. Compared to what it was like in the 70s, when large
numbers of young people and the well-educated were coming into the
Church, the numbers have steadily decreased. He reminds us of the saying
that the Church in the West lost the workers in the 19th century, and
the young in the 20th century. In Korea, we lost the workers in the
1990s, and can we now say we are losing the youth in the 21st century?
the young are no longer coming out to the Church and those who are in
the Church are leaving, the future of the Church is not bright. And the
situation is no better with the religious orders, which have also
experienced a decrease in numbers. Even among those who do show an
interest, the quality of life and understanding of the commitment
involved is not what it once was. This is not a good omen for the future
of the Church. His recommendation is that the dioceses and religious
orders need to work together, and fund the efforts to prepare for the
future. We should not be content with one-time efforts or a display of
energy, but draw up 10-year plans to do something about the situation.
professor mentions two examples of young people who have joined
together to affect change in the Church. In Korea, it's the Movement of
Scripture and Faith Sharing, which has been going strong for over 30
years. Outside Korea, he mentions the Taizè Community meeting in Rome at
the end of last year. 45,000 young adults came together to pray with
Pope Benedict XVI.
The common element in these meetings that he
believes is responsible for their success is having the youth in
control of the
meetings. Their input is encouraged and appreciated; they are not there
as guests but as the hosts--they are
running the show. A second element that makes these meetings a success
is having God at the center. In the Taizè meeting they get together 3
times during the day to pray. They want something that the world cannot
give, which prompted the professor to recall the words of St. Peter to
describe the nature of their commitment: "Lord to whom shall we go? You
have the words of eternal life" (John
He mentions that when Pope John Paul II brought up the
idea of having a Youth World Day, those around him tried to dissuade
him. The young
would not be interested, they told him. He went ahead with the idea, as
we know, and with great success.
The professor ends his remarks
by repeating that if the Church is not to lose the young people, they
have to be the pastoral agents; they must be encouraged to come together
to experience the power of the Scriptures. The only remaining
question that needs to be answered is, Who will be the leaders of this
movement in the