Last weekend I was in Cambletown with a delegation from Melbourne at the Australian Catholic Youth Ministry Convention. This event saw over 250 Youth Ministers from across the country come together to share ideas and receive formation. (This was the second event of its kind, after Melbourne hosted the inaugural ACYMC two years ago
By far the highlight of the weekend (apart from sitting in a hotel room watching the hawks make their way into the Grand Final) was the Keynote Address by Bishop Anthony Fisher OP.
His speech was not only the finest example of oratory I have heard in a long time, but his ability to assess the current state of affairs and propose a way forward was second to none.
The full text can be found here, and should be read by all, young and old.
Here are some highlights
After outlining “Modernity’s long-extended adolescence … a period of keeping options open, putting long-term decisions on the backburner, and enjoying a childlike freedom in pursuit of fun” he points out that this is not what Christ had in mind:
. Christianity did teach the world that childhood is a precious time and that young adults need particular formation. It invented a three-phase system of education that has now become more or less universal. It insisted on certain responsibilities of parents and older members of the community towards the young and vice versa. It invested huge amounts of its energy into orphanages, schools, work with youth and, of course, youth ministry. But it has never supported the idea of an extended adolescence in which people are kept emotionally and spiritually stunted, seeking only their own pleasure, habituated in non-commitment, and looking to be supported in this by their parents and community. Nor has Christianity ever recommended joining an extended moral childishness to very adult activities such as sex, warfare, drugs and the rest.
As we contemplate in thought, prayer, dialogue and action how best to serve and draw into service today’s Catholic youth, we must appreciate that we do so in a society that offers them all sorts of technologies, opportunities and ideals, some very good, but also promotes a false spirituality and does not help them mature well. It sells them short in many ways, not least in saying they are not up to much, except in athletics or modelling where youth sells. Too many voices in our culture suggest that young people today lack idealism, are unwilling to sacrifice for a cause, are only interested in passing pleasurable experiences. Such will be true only if we present only such aspirations to them.
Therefore, Bishop Fisher points out, the role of all of us who are responsible for the formation of the young is to:
[Help the Young] to grow up well, to cease being spiritual midgets, to break out of the ‘sand pit’ and take their faith seriously. We must bring them to a mature freedom, not of self-serving or arbitrariness, but freedom for excellence, a freedom in the pursuit of the good and true and beautiful for themselves, their loved ones, their Church and world.
Youth ministry is, then, about helping people grow up in a society that too often stunts them emotionally and spiritually, or sells them short in other ways.
Calling on our last two Popes he points out that “youth is not just a period of prepping for adulthood when at last we do the Christian thing, but of already doing the Christian thing in a youthful way, as well as preparing to do it in new adult ways.”
Youth Ministry must have as its goal for not just short term solutions but a ‘real cure’
“we need to be focussed on …. life after youth ministry: getting young people ready for the next phase of life, connecting them to parishes, groups and ministries, habituating them in attendance at Mass and Confession, growing them in virtue and holiness, drawing forth the unique gifts each brings to the building up Church and society, readying them for life as saints on earth and in heaven. With such help the prognosis is very bright.”
read the full text, read it and be inspired.