Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Revitilizing the Youth Ministry in Parishes

A parish priest in a Catholic Times' column tells the readers of a mother whose son volunteered to work in a  Filipino slum last summer and wanted to tell her son's story to the priest. He was so different from the past.

Until he volunteered  the family never had a quiet day and they continued worrying about the son. He wasn't concerned with the world nor interested  in looking for a job but spent  his time in his room playing computer games. However, when his mother suggested he go to the Philippines for volunteeer work in the slums he readily accepted.

His experience in the Philippines was such that during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics he had a part time  job which continued his international interest  and the use of the few words in knew in English coming again to his help with his experience of overseas service. The experience in the Philippines changed his life. The mother wanted  to thank  the writer for the opportunity given her son.

The priest  was delighted to hear that his running of the youth vounteer service for the past ten years continues to help many young people and their families. He feels this is one way of  revitilizing the pastoral work of the church. Young people are experiencing a sense of crisis with the way society is moving. The 'sam po' generation is a word used in Korea for the young who because of social pressure and economics have to give up courtship, marriage and having children.

Not lilke the past when they graduated from college and got a job and went on with  their lives. The young pople are confronted with great competition and face an unstable future. In the church they are also disappeaing. According to the statistics from 2017, only 13% of  the Catholics are in their twenties. This is a 2% drop from 2008. With the continuance of this decline the future of the church is not bright.

The writer believes that to revive the stagnant current youth ministry is the youth service abroad and actively promotes and invests in the program. These days youth volunteer programs are rare and carried out by a small number of parishes schools and organizations. Safety of the youth and financial support are burdensome but ultimately the lack of interest in young people.

Youth volunteer activities provide a variety of  pastoral results. They revitalize the youth pastoral care of the parish, inspire young people's faith, and instill a sense of service. It also gives young people an international perspective in the era of globalization. There are many other additional effects. It is a great opportunity for young people to have their own identity, cooperate with others while building bonds with others. Furthermore, what they learn from the experience remains with them for a life time and they gain the strength to cope with adversity and hardship.

The writer has experienced the good that is done with the efforts of helping the young people to do volunteer service overseas. They become wiser, the only thought of making money and being socially sucessful has  been extended to helping others. Isn't  this the aim of any good  youth pastoral program? Experiencing overseas service will contribute to the revitalization of youth pastoral care and changing the way of life and thinking of the young.