‘Clerical’ Church must learn from young Catholics

‘Clerical’ Church must learn from young Catholics File photo of a pre-pandemic Youth 2000 festival

Voices at the forefront of youth ministry have warned that if the Church is to avoid attempts to “water down” its core teaching it must take the lead from young people who are already practising Catholics and engaged with faith.

These calls come amid concerns that in an attempt to reach those on the margins of the Church, the planned synod process may overlook the young Catholics it already  has on-board and their experiences of embracing faith in a secular culture.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic, Fr Eamonn Bourke, chaplain at University College Dublin said that young Catholics know they’ve found a “pearl of great price” and they know “it’s not easy to be a disciple today”, often swimming against the tide to simply practice their Faith.

“Hopefully the Church will catch up with what’s actually happening with young people now because in the past, you would have heard of parents trying to get their kids to go to Mass. I have students now who are trying to get their parents to go to Mass.

“It’s almost flipped on its head. They’re actually going out and they’re evangelising their own peers…I just hope that the Church will give them support in that,” he said.

Shannon Campbell, Pastoral Manager at Queen’s University Belfast’s Catholic chaplaincy, echoed the sentiment, saying that her hope is that we “meaningfully engage our young people in the synod conversation”.

“I think sometimes in youth ministry we find ourselves out of sync with where young people actually are and what their needs might be. So I hope that the Church will lend its ear to both those young people and the people that work with them,” Ms Campbell said.

The chaplaincy at Queen’s offers a model for the Church to follow according to Ms Campbell, modelling “invitational, Christ-centred, formative, outward-looking,” and “collaborative” campus ministry.

Ms Campbell said that they are “very conscious” that they’re forming young people as “agents of change for the future”.

Tony Foy of NET Ministries Ireland said that the Church could benefit from listening to those groups on the frontline of evangelisation.

“Obviously I’m biased, but I think there is a need [to engage youth groups like Net Ministries]. Who is making disciples? Who is bringing people to the faith? Who is increasing the faith of those who already have a little modicum of faith? Those are the people that we need to listen to,” Mr Foy said.

“The Church in Ireland – the clerical Church, for want of a better way of putting it – the established Church – is not in a good place in terms of the future and the demographic deficit that is happening,” he said.

Read more here – Listening to the youthful Church