Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown has expressed his hope that next month’s international summit of bishops on the challenges facing young people can breathe fresh life into the Church’s youth ministry in Ireland.
Dr McKeown, who along with Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin will represent Ireland at the month-long Vatican event, told The Irish Catholic he wants it to inspire a deeper focus from the Church on young people who are at risk.
Entitled, ‘Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment’, it will be presided over by Pope Francis and will hear from many young people as well as bishops representing almost 200 countries.
Dr McKeown said “I think we have an opportunity to recognise we are not reaching young people”.
He said that the Church was doing a good job in gathering together young people who are already involved in the Church and community. However, he acknowledged that: “We have, in many cases, no real structured approach to reaching young people and particularly not to reaching young people at risk.
“Homelessness, alcoholism, drug abuse, the weekend orgies, broken homes: young people are at risk in all sorts of ways.
“It’s comparatively easy to get ‘nice young people’ together but how do we be out there with the ones who are at risk?”
His call comes as his Derry diocese is due to launch a major new youth ministry plan later this month. “Maybe we’re at the stage where we’re discovering that what young people actually want is to be challenged.
“They’re being challenged to engage with the reality of their society, to do something enormous with their life, to be heroes rather than self-indulgent,” Dr McKeown said.