Below is an excerpt from a talk I gave on youth and young adult ministry for the 2nd Assembly of Filipino Catholics in the Diocese of San Jose on July 10, 2010. My task was to inform 200 Filipino leaders in the Catholic Church of San Jose about how they can be intentional about youth and young adult ministry in their community.
I use the word “relevancy” all the time. And I think it is a key word. In the eyes of our youth and young adults, the church does not speak to their needs in any important or significant way. The church is not relevant to them. They look at the teachings of the Catholic Chuch and think to themselves that church teaching is behind the times, whether that teaching be about sexuality, homosexuality, women or married priests, cohabitation, it’s teaching of moral or venial sins. The list goes on.
What are some of the other issues? Youth and young adults need to be engaged in the life of the church. But the reality is that they are not. The reality is that they don’t even want to be. Their perception is that the doors to church involvement are not open. You and I may think that the door is open, and it very well may be. But their perception is that it is not. Perceptions are sometimes more important to address then reality. Why do young people feel that the door is not open? Older adults “own” the church, whether that be involvement in liturgy, social justice ministry, the pastoral or finance council, or whatever. In their view, there is no room for them in the church. And that’s just fine with them. They have plenty of other things to be involved in. And guess what? It’s not church. It’s work. It’s family. It’s friends. It’s TV shows, video games, sports, internet, Facebook.
Let’s name one more reality. We have raised a generation of Catholics who are cultural Catholics. What do I mean by that? I mean that we’ve created a generation who go to church because it’s just what the family does. We pray the rosary because it is what the family does. We have Santo Ninos and Virgin Mary statues in our homes because it is what the family does. They go to mass because it is what the family does. They attend novenas and Simbangbing because it is just what the family does. They are cultural Catholics. They were raised doing it, so they keep doing it. But it has no real impact on their lives. We have created a generation of cultural Catholics.
What we need to be about as church is creating a generation of engaged Catholics. These are Catholics who are involved in the life of the church and are choosing to live like Christ. These are Catholics who understand liturgy and why the church community is so important in their lives. They can name why it is important the Jesus died for you and me. Engaged Catholic know and live this. The people in this room know it and live it.
As a Catholic church, we need to be about creating engaged Catholics, not cultural Catholics. We want Catholics who are not going to church because that’s what they have always done, but because it is how they choose to live out their faith.