The National Catholic Youth Organization Federation (predecessor of the NFCYM) published the results of a symposium held in 1980 that was entitled Hope for the Decade: A Look at the Issues Facing Catholic Youth Ministry. As this was the year that I entered parish youth ministry and I have now recently returned to the same AND I found an old copy as I took full ownership over my new office and cleaned the bookshelves… I thought we might engage in a webposium series of articles looking at the issues then (with a pull-quote from the book) as well as now. Please add your own perspective on what we are facing in the present and future and how much or little we have actually grown as a field.
THEN: (Cultural shifts have) caused confusion and even anger among church members. To displace some of these feelings, the Church must address itself to the development of rituals which further a contemporary understanding of the Christian experience.
NOW: I was in a parish in the Midwest when I started ministry. Early on, I attended a workshop offered by St. John Universality in Queens, NY with the theme The Politicization of Youth Ministry. At that time, the youth ministry crowd in neighboring New Jersey was quite prevalently Charismatic in nature. After a day’s worth of programming, the evening saw the participants divide into two crowds: a group that prayed on the campus and a group that partied on the town. Each morning, both woke up groggy and a little “hung-over” from their exertions the previous evening.
And since that time, I have seen that dynamic played out over and over and over. It gets played out in the choice of music in liturgy… from something decades old to David Haas (my roommate at that conference) to Matt Maher. Is Eucharistic Adoration used as a program element or as the Core or is it ignored. Is it silent or praise and worshippy? Where does service fit in to what we do? All of these, of course, are exactly what we were discussing last week regarding imposing “our stuff” on the next generation – Whatever we are into is exactly what we anticipate that kids NEED for their own survival in faith in the future.
This confusion and even anger is certainly unproductive and does not contribute to the sustainability of our enterprise as Church. I wonder if we are beginning to see “new community” and “new ritual” being found in the development of small group / basic communities or within a sense of new monasticism. I am not sure if these are the answers, but it is these areas in which I seek hope.
Further, in the area of changing forms in religious identity, we must consider the role of new technologies as well. If we are to be disciples reaching the peripheries, we can not remain stuck inside our church walls hashing our decades-old arguments.
Pope Benedict encouraged “young Catholic believers… to introduce into the culture of this new environment of communications and information technology the values on which you have built your lives. In the early life of the Church, the great Apostles and their disciples brought the Good News of Jesus to the Greek and Roman world. Just as, at that time, a fruitful evangelization required that careful attention be given to understanding the culture and customs of those pagan peoples so that the truth of the gospel would touch their hearts and minds, so also today, the proclamation of Christ in the world of new technologies requires a profound knowledge of this world if the technologies are to serve our mission adequately. It falls, in particular, to young people, who have an almost spontaneous affinity for the new means of communication, to take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this “digital continent”. The moment that we as Church and as youth ministry start to get this right will be transformative and life-sustaining for the church.
Join the webposium! What are your thoughts on where we are at as a youth ministry field in addressing the conveying religious identity towards the next generation?