by Fr. Phillippe Angelo Garcia
The directory of the Philippine Catholic Church to Youth Ministry is entitled: KA-LAKBAY. This means that the Church journeys with the Youth.
In the spirit of Synodality, here are some reflections on journeying with the youth.
1. The Youth are the NOW of the Church
Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit stated that the youth are the NOW of the Church.
In Christus Vivit 64, he said that we cannot just say that young people are the future of our world. They are its present; even now, they are helping to enrich it. They are at that time in their lives when they begin to assume a number of responsibilities, sharing alongside adults in the growth of the family, society and the Church.
Pope Francis recognizes the desires, hurts, and longings of the young ones. He further explains in Christus Vivit that “there is a way out” of all dark and painful situations. The Church strives her best to be a “field hospital” to the young ones who are in need of direction in one’s life.
Pope Francis entitled this document CHRISTUS VIVIT which means CHRIST IS ALIVE and He is there to save us.
2. Ministering the Youth
The Catholic Church in the Philippines states that the youth ministry should be assured of the fullest attention and highest priority in every way by all in the Church. That is why Church ministers to the youth through our Parish Youth Ministry and Catholic organizations concerning the young ones.
Through the Parish Youth Ministry, the young ones are ministered in an integral way. This is not just all about teaching them how to pray. Youth Ministry includes forming them to have an outstanding community life, intellectual life, spiritual life, and missionary life. This also includes co-discerning with them, having the pastors or older ones in the ministry as their mentors in life and major decision making.
The Youth Ministry is for all youth. Such ministry does not only cater to those who serve in the Holy Mass nor for those who know how to pray. This ministry is for all the young people in various settings.
3. Youth on A Mission
This Youth ministry goes beyond the concept of clubs or simple fellowships of young people because in this regard, the young people are active participants and agents in the Church’s mission.
Youth ministry has an ecclesial dimension for it is an experience of being Church, a community helping one another, and a community serving those in need and particularly the poorest of the poor.
The Catholic Church in the Philippines recognizes that the youth are the best evangelizers of their fellow young ones. They are one of the greatest resources for evangelization of the Church particularly the online sphere.
They are evangelizing their fellow young ones in their own way and by their own means. It must be noted that having such uniqueness makes them teachers of elders as well.
It must also be noted as well that they are a group of the young, therefore, their language may be different and their way of seeing things may also be different from the older ones. That is why they are meant to be guided.
4. Active Presence and A Listening Heart for the Youth
The most common problem I have been hearing from the youth are family problems. In the context of the pandemic, when families were asked to be together due to the strict lockdowns particularly last year, I heard of many struggles.
I have always reminded my parishioners that the first step in loving is listening. We may not have all the answers but our active presence – our listening heart – shows that we are journeying with them in their lives.
Active presence can be relied on two modes: first, the physical presence; secondly, the presence in the online sphere. This presence must be well balanced. It means it should have a healthy boundary. This presence focuses on the power of listening. I have observed that many millennials in my parish community seek to have a listening person towards their problems in life.
5. Discerning with the Youth
The youth seek direction in life.
The standard of our direction is the teachings of the church and the word of God. However, it must be noted that as a priest, I don’t make decisions for them. I discern with them. I journey with them by way of presenting objective truths in life and in faith.
Discernment is different from decision making. Discernment is a process of weighing multiple good options in life.
In this process we are also able to recognize the blocks, the hindrances for them to make good decision-making. For us to travel towards our goal, we first identify the way towards it and those that block the way.
In the Catholic Faith, the ones blocking may be an object of sin. It is a great consolation on our part as priests to see our parishioners finally victorious over one’s favorite sins.
6. Teaching the Youth to Go the Extra Mile
The best example of going the extra mile for the youth is for them to see someone who really walks the talk.
In the context of the pandemic, the Church seeks to address these challenging times, from our social action initiatives such as the community pantry to our help towards the vaccination drives.
In these endeavors I have seen my youth parishioners serving the Church despite the difficulties we face. It is important to note that our young parishioners are energetic in terms of serving the ones in need. They have a desire to be remarkable; to be able to help in little ways.
In our parish context, we don’t let them serve without sharing the Word of God. We also help them process their experiences and desires.
Whenever they offer their service in Church or towards the poor, they get a chance to know themselves better through interpersonal activities. In a way, this is a chance to know one’s strengths and weaknesses more.
The lessons one learns as they serve the Church are very precious indeed. I admire many of our liturgical server, lectors, commentators, and altar servers who serve not just at the altar of God but also at the altar of service via our Community Pantry.
7. Recognizing Strengths and Weaknesses
Journeying with the youth, including millennials, entails knowing their capabilities. I recognize that our millennial parishioners have their own God-given charisms. They have their unique talents and skills. Whatever uniqueness they have, that is their way of serving the Church.
Serving the Church does not mean just serving during the prayer times of the Church. It is way beyond that! Serving the Church means serving humanity as well. We serve because we love God. The best expression of loving God is loving our neighbor.
As we journey with the youth, I must emphasize that journeying is not seasonal. Journeying is a long process.
Let us journey with the youth in the direction of Christ. And bring the youth back to Church because the vehicle towards Christ is the Catholic Church.