Here in the States, youth ministry has had a moment. It was World Youth Day 1993 in Denver Colorado. It was an encounter moment. A vibrant Pope John Paul II gathers with hundreds of thousands of young people and it is a love fest. “J.P.2., we love you” and he responds “J.P.2., he love you!”
And, bishops and cardinals, gathered together because the boss is in town, all look on the moment and think to thier ecclesial selves “I got to get me some of that.” Hope, enthusiasm, a generation are all empowered.
Then, in 1997, the Vatican releases the General Directory for Catechesis. After an initial reading, another moment dawns within the Church. Whole Community Catechesis calls for a new framework beyond a traditional classroom. What is proposed is a new model for catechesis that involves the whole community: the family, the catechumenate, the parish, Catholic schools, groups of the faithful, and basic ecclesial communities.
Catechetical leaders all look upon this. “I got to get me some of that.” Workshops and conferences are generated. Textbooks and binders are published; hope, enthusiasm, a generation seems empowered. AND where Whole Community Catechesis was perceived as a vision in need of nurture and experimentation, it has grown steadily but sure. But where deference was paid only to the latest binder or national theorist/expert… well, ask yourself, beyond this post, when is the last time you’ve heard much of Whole Community Catechesis? Ask yourself this as well, what is the consensus vision /understanding looking like for a sustainable future for catechetical leadership?
How we deal with moments is important. In previous times, while discussing Thomas Berger’s book, The Juvenilization of American Christianity, (here and here), we have come to the understanding that youth ministry clearly has an impact, not just on young people, but upon how it is and will be that we will “do” as the greater Church.
What is the “I got to get me some of that” moment that empowers hope, enthusiasm, and a generation for the future? What is that moment that empowers the way that we all will “do” as the greater Church?
I’m sure you’ve got the answer. Here’s mine (and I said it first at a recent meeting of our Association of Professional Youth Ministers):
If the New Evangelization and “the Francis effect” are fully to take hold in our Church,
young people will be the integral agents of that transformation.
This is our moment with aspirations a mile-high, not unlike WYD 1993. This is our moment. It is not one which we can allow ourselves to passively defer to the latest program or binder or national theorist/expert but must personally nurture and locally experiment upon, even to the risk of not getting it just right. This is not a moment for youth ministers, but this is our moment as Church.
As we engage in this moment, we embrace Pope Francis “dream of a ‘missionary option’, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” EG, 27.