Monday, March 31, 2014

Catholic Youth of Korea

"Young people are leaving the Church!" are the catchwords heard often when we discuss the present crisis in the Church. The cover story in the Catholic Times asks: Is this the reality?--while also mentioning that the absence of the young in the Church is not a recent phenomenon. According to current statistics, only 7 percent of Catholics from 20 to 35-years-old go to Sunday Mass, but this figure is best understood when compared to the overall percentage of Catholics going to Sunday Mass, which is 25 percent; this gives us a more accurate picture of the situation.

If the figures are correct, what are the reasons for the poor attendance? Have young people turned their back on the Church? A survey made by the Seoul diocese revealed that 36 percent of the young feel there is a lack of opportunities to grow in the faith. But 76 percent have a good feeling about the Mass and the Catholic liturgy. A sign, says the Catholic Times, that the young are thirsting for the experience of spirituality.

In Korea, parishes determine who is practicing their faith by using small paper slips with the name and address of the Catholics. These are used when the person goes to confession during Lent or before Christmas. There is a basket outside the confessional where they put the slip of paper prior to making their confession. They are later gathered and the names  inscribed  in the parish register. When a name is missing for three years in a row, that person is considered tepid. The statistics which are reported by each diocese are  based on this information.

The writer of the article mentions that young people, despite not going to Sunday Mass in large numbers, are often found participating in religious programs. There is also a continual  increase in the  number of young people who are coming into the Church. So we cannot assert, says the writer, that they are turning away from religion and the faith life. He wonders whether those making these statements are looking on the young with preconceived ideas and distorting what can be learned from their non-attendance at Mass.

Young people are looking for God in the places where they happen to find themselves, in their activities and where they feel most passionately alive. Since the young move a great deal  they don't  find it easy to plant their roots in parish life. But find it easier to be active in their school life and their workplace doing apostolic activities, and nurturing their spiritual life. In a variety of different groups they are active in service to others and helping those who have difficulties.

He lists a number of young people who are very much involved in  groups studying the Scriptures. They spend their day in the workplace and in the evenings are involved as leaders in these Scriptural study groups. Many of them don't use the identifying slips of paper, but they are, nonetheless, he says, zealous Catholics.

No matter what one may imagine is the case, the writer feels that the evidence does not support the contention of some that many of the young have left the Church and their religion. They are still very much the hope of the Church, he says, and this hope will continue to inspire the Church into the future.

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