The youth ministers, college chaplains and tertiary chaplains of the Palmerston North and Wellington dioceses gathered in Pahiatua for a 24 hour retreat over 8 and 9 August. The theme was Christus Vivit – Christ is Alive!, which is the new Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Francis on young people in the Church.
This document is challenging young people to engage the Church and be engaged by it NOW! People have often commented that young people are the Church of the future; but they are infact the Church of today, and we are all called by virtue of our common baptism to accompany our young people.
We have left behind the idea the youth minister does it all. That model doesn’t work. Pope Francis is clear about a number of things we need to consider moving forward – he encourages young people to fall in love with the freedom that Jesus extends to each of us (n.122); that the community has an important role in the accompaniment of young people (n.243); that mentors should not lead young people as passive followers (n.246).
Francis refers to 1 Tim 4:12, which talks about young people being great examples of faith in their communities, while also referring to 1 Peter 5:5, which reminds the young to consider the wisdom of those who have walked longer in their faith journey.
Our time away was reinvigorating for these servant leaders who coordinate ministry to young people in our dioceses. For those of us who are ‘experienced youth’, Francis reminds us that youth is more than simply a period of time; it is a state of mind (n.34). So there is plenty in this document for the whole of our church to pray through and think about!