Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Pastoral Work with Young People

Where have all the young people gone? From all appearance, it seems the numbers have decreased but no studies have been made of the situation. One of the reasons is we don't have any common understanding of what we mean by young people. A priest who is working with the youth and has responsibility in the work on the national level gives his ideas in the Kyeongyang magazine. 

It was during the 19th century that the term young people was first used. Today we have no agreement on who should be considered a young person. Up  until 1990 common was to think those who left their teens and before the late twenties were considered the young people. Many now consider those in the late 20s and 30s, before marriage, to be the young.

We need standards in what we mean by 'the young'. Nowadays persons are entering society at an older age, changing our understanding and making those in the 20s and 30s the young people.

The writer states that the Church was not able to decide who were the objects of pastoral concern. The framework for the pastoral care of the young in the 1980s and 90s remained, which did not fit the young people in their late 20s and early 30s.

Another reason for the young people distancing themselves from the church was the parent's emphasis on studies. It started with the third year high school students preparing for college but expanded to the 2nd and 1st year students.

The second reason he lists is the authoritarianism of many of the clergy. This surfaced in a survey made by the bishops of Korea in 2016. The young priests are the same age as many of the young people but with a more hands-on approach than what the young people are accustomed to in a democratic society. This puts a damper on the spirit of the group. Also,  assistant priests are not in the parish for more than one or two years, not good for the work.

Young people along with other parishioners often feel pressure and are burdened with tasks for the larger community. Instead of being mission-orientated it becomes task-orientated. The young are to be formed into apostles and instead feel the pressure of tasks. And as the numbers decrease the remaining young people feel more of the burden.

The larger society is making the activity of the young more difficult because of the oppression coming from the society—time and mental stress. The opportunities for employment have decreased and the young have to prepare for this new step into society.

This is not the time to lose hope but to renew our desire as given in the Joy of the Gospel #24. "The Church which 'goes forth' is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (1 Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast."

When the going gets difficult we face the crisis and challenge necessary for a new spring. We don't give up but with the help of the Holy Spirit we spend time in reflection and look for answers as the Church is now doing with the Synod of bishops. In Rome at present we have the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Bishops (Oct. 3-28) discussing the topic: Young people, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment. Let's pray that it will be a success and give us a fruitful way of acting in the future.