Last week in the bulletin (7 Jan 2018) we included part of a report of a survey offered to young Catholics last year to help prepare an Australian response to the forthcoming Synod of the Church, discussing the above topic. Following is another extract from that response, following on from last week:
THE IMPACT ON YOUNG PEOPLE: Along with the changes in the religious landscape, the Church’s significance as the centre of local community life has declined at the same time as people’s mobility and reliance on electronic forms of communication has increased. Young people are faced with a rising level of secularisation and materialism in the Australian society. Social media and main-stream media influences often conflict with the teachings of the faith. In addition, the Church’s teachings seem increasingly irrelevant to contemporary forms of relationships and do not support an individualistic way of working and living, so that the importance of religion has greatly decreased in many people’s lives. One of the challenges is also the variety of approaches to faith and church practice. On the one hand, there are those who adhere to traditional devotional, liturgical and hierarchical styles. On the other hand, there are those who place more emphasis on being Catholic within the world, in dialogue with others.
Rural dioceses face unique challenges in their ministry to young people. Going to Mass and attending youth groups is not very easy due to the large distances, the absence of regular weekend Mass and a lack of parish resources. The movement of young people to larger towns and cities sometimes creates a changed relationship with the Church and community. The Church can sometimes be seen as part of their childhood and not part of their daily life as they move to a new location and commence as adults. Individuals often return to their home parish for special moments such as a child’s baptism or a funeral but, due to the separation from the faith community of their childhood, they cease to engage in Church and have an ongoing faith life.
There are also challenges in ministering to migrant youth, with differently tailored youth programs needed for those who are born in Australia and new arrivals from overseas. These two groups of young people are distinct in their mentality, needs and also their choice of spoken language. For example, in the Chaldean diocese, some youth still speak only Chaldean and Arabic and struggle with English. This makes it a challenge to have an event that suits everyone. Indigenous Australians also face greater challenges with issues of equality and a lack of educational and work opportunities.
Additional challenges for young people, as identified by both young people and the wider Church, include the breakdown of family relationships and an increase in domestic violence; the negative effects of social media (including cyberbullying, the need for constant connection and the resulting rewiring of how young people now think) and a lack of self-esteem and concern about what the future may hold for them. Another challenge is the over sexualisation of entertainment, advertising and media. This exposure to explicate concepts normalises the use of pornography, which leads to many different social challenges.
Finally, the recent Royal Commission inquiry into the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in Australia has had serious repercussions in many communities. The legacy of child sexual abuse in some dioceses has tarnished not only the institution of the Church but also anyone who remains an active member of its community. There is a general loss of trust in society’s institutions and leaders, including the Church. In some places, priests refrain from visiting schools as they used to. There is a perception that the Church has lost the moral high ground.
Sections Two and Three of this report provide further details on the challenges faced by young people and the responses provided by vocational programs, pastoral care workers and youth ministries in Australia.
Parishioners might be interested to read more of this report on the Australian Catholic Bishops’ website: https://www.catholic.org.au/youthsurvey