Reimagining Ministry to Youth
The Partnership for Adolescent Catechesis (NFCYM, NCEA, NCCL), in collaboration with pastoral and catechetical leaders from around the country, wrote The Joy of Adolescent Catechesis (JAC). The document describes itself as an “invitation to examine, thoroughly and honestly, current assumptions and systems in order to encourage the creation of new relationships and patterns of ministry” (see JAC, page 5).
This document invites those who work with young people to reimagine adolescent catechesis. The vision to accompany adolescents toward a deep friendship with Jesus Christ; a rich and sacramental expression of that faith; and finally, to a fruitful and missionary discipleship requires the pastoral, educational, catechetical, and familial
communities to work together. The document does not offer a specific program, tool, resource, or solution to the issues we face in passing on the Catholic faith; it does, however, offer hope and possibility.
The Church has seen a decline of participation in our parishes and programs. Page 30 of JAC notes: “Just since 2000 national Catholic school enrollment has declined by 28 percent … many parishes see an exodus of teenagers from catechetical programs. …” Thus, we need the hope JAC offers. If we want to stop managing decline, and even better, see an increase in conversion and discipleship, we must answer the challenges put forth here, to go where young people can be found, to get to know them where they are, and to accompany them through the individual contexts in which they find themselves.
The Joy of Adolescent Catechesis reminds us of some of these contexts:
■■ young people who never participate in the life and mission of the parish community;
■■ teens marginalized by their economic situation;
■■ teens with disabilities that make it difficult for them to actively participate;
■■ teens who are of a different ethnicity than the majority of the parish community left to feel isolated;
■■ young people in single parent homes, homes with grandparents, or foster homes;
■■ young people who are incarcerated, with no one reaching out to them.
We are Challenged Further to:
■■ empower parents and faith-filled families;
■■ create vibrant, youth-friendly parishes;
■■ form fruitful partnerships;
■■ engage in comprehensive ministry to youth with intentional and systematic faith formation;
■■ develop an environment of inclusion, trust, and acceptance.
If we succeed in doing this, we will create vibrant faith communities where adolescents are accompanied, where they are seen in roles of leadership, and where they are actively engaged in the life and mission of the parish.
The task now is to unpack this document in our own communities, to discern who needs to be a part of this conversation, to accept the challenges posed in The Joy of Adolescent Catechesis, and to innovate.
Begin today: What word or phrase from this vision statement speaks most powerfully to you?
DENISE UTTER, MAPS, works in family faith formation at the parish and diocesan levels. She is a writer/ speaker/trainer for OSV, NCCL, and Vibrant Faith. She is also part of the Strong Catholic Family Faith team (CatholicFamilyFaith. org) and coordinates their social media.
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, December, 2017.
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