By John Obonyo CMF
Youth and Vocations Ministry (YVM) is not a new engagement in the Church. Thus, the steps being taken by the Church and the Congregation, particularly in St. Charles Lwanga Delegation, regarding YVM, is meant to update the approach to youth ministry with the current world in mind. It is with this goal, that all the efforts by the Church and the Congregation find motivations to effectively engage in YVM. Therefore, the paradigm shift that we see today regarding YVM is in answer to rapid changes experienced in our Church and the society today. The YVM acknowledges that there are gaps in the life of the young people. These gaps have been left by the fast and steady progress of the world. And these gaps need to be filled with Christian values and virtues. Therefore, the task is for the Church to enter and experience the world of the young people in a new way to be able to journey with them and guide them through their failures to success, fears to courage, lack to fulfilment, as a group or as an individual. YVM is, therefore, that body in the Church that intends to journey and accompany the youths in this process.
The intention of the YMV is to help the young people find their place and their roles in the Church and in the society. As a Church and the Delegation, we would like to enter into the world of the youth, find them in their world, dialogue with them in their world and journey with them to their destination in line with the gospel values. This renewed call is with the sole purpose to make youths better humans, Christians and Catholics with a right disposition to live their vocations. This would mean the Church has to speak the language that is easily understood by the young people in order to answer the plights of the young people. Hence, in response to this, various activities have been proposed. The Claretian Family (CF) has not remined behind but responded by a unequivocal approaches of various kinds in various part of the world for the good of the youths in the Church and great progress has been realized in this area of evangelization of the young people.
However, amidst all the progresses made, the youths are faced with many challenges which hinder them from achieving their particular vocation. Some of these challenges are communal or particular or general, or specific to individuals. Let us discuss a few.
Young people find role models in the most successful persons in the community without many questions. They would want to be successful like them, but they may not ask how the success came about. This has led to unguided desire for easy success among them. Therefore, uncontrolled desire for good life has led to extreme desire in young people to acquire wealth dubiously. This has made them to fall victims of financial indiscipline. Too much wealth also makes it hard for them the understand the teachings on detachment. This makes it hard to teach them about corruption of wealth and evangelical poverty.
In addition to that, technological advancement without morality is also negatively affecting the young people today. Technical and human sciences, without divinity, are giving young people hopes that it cannot fulfil, leading to unfulfilled spaces in the life of young people, hence, disappointments. Technological advancement has also led to modern addiction among youths to social media and to visual and audio content of the internet world. This is a challenge that is also common among young people here. This makes it challenging to pick the youths from their usual addictive routine and put them away for some days without those items of pleasures.
Furthermore, twisted history which is confusing more than giving clear self-identity to young generation. Mass media and communication has led to quick access to various cultures and contents leading to cultural confusion and identity crisis. The changes in the life of the family is leading to many young people coming out from dysfunctional families. This sometimes has made the young people to be more resistant to the figure of authority. Similarly, firm cultural traditions and values are facing challenges because of rapid transitional mind of the modern time. Definition of family, relationships, allegiance is getting more negatively inclusive.
Moreover, industrialization and urbanization have all led to changes in the society and cultural values. Travels in search of jobs or going for a job opportunity by the couples has led to absentee parents in the life of their youths and children. Working parents do send their youths and children to school at a very young age. These have led to unrooted relationship between the parents and youths/children leading to poor character formation in relation to parenting. This has resulted to gap between the parents and the youths. Another challenge you find among youths is the concept of freedom. The idea that humans are ends to themselves is cropping into the life of the young people. This is reducing their dependence on God and on common values. The young people think like freedom is in doing what they want, be it good or bad, without any fear of an authority or God. Yet freedom of this kind destroys rather than builds a human society. It’s a freedom that leads to confusion other than orderly community.
Likewise, rapid changes have made young people to become more impatient and rebellious to all that seems static. Firm religious and cultural values have become the main victims to this impatient and rebellious spirit in the young people. The seemingly incompatible religious and cultural truths to scientific knowledge and proves is leading to more questions than answers. This has led to explicit and implicit conflict in the young people. With the fact that human minds tend towards what it can concretely conceive, many are drawn to scientific facts than the Absolute Truths that lie behind those facts. The unproven faith of the young people is getting colder day by day; hence they are distancing themselves from the Church and her mysteries more today than before. Rapid changes and newness have led to more questions and resistance to traditional values. The young people are very impatient generation always in need of quick and easy answers and solutions to their needs and inner longings. Therefore, firm religious concepts/doctrines are facing the challenge of being left behind by this kind of a very dynamic mentality of the modern man. These challenges mentioned above has led to religious, socio-political, and cultural dichotomy. And that all these parallels have led to a complex web of new challenges in the modern time.
Amidst all the above-mentioned challenges, there is still hope for better youths with proper vocations. The potentialities in the young people are amazing seeds that really needs to be treasured. Young people are bundles of possibilities. The youth are potential riches of the world and the Church, and this is what gives hope to the Church. The young people are the ones who get to live up the various vocations in the Church. Occasionally, young people come to share their challenges and you will see a genuine need for a better life. It implies that there is a “light at the end of the tunnel.” The living good conscience in the young people still makes them to search for the truth and permanency in this midst of confusion and constant changes. The young people appreciate a genuine dialogue and accompaniment so as to fine a meaning in life. In the midst of all modern development, the young people still feel a gap and thirst in their deepest inner life that nothing in the world can fill or quench it except God. This is the seed of life we are talking about. Therefore, it would not be proper to stop a young person from asking genuine question. These questions are often in search for a direction in life. A sincere question arising from a sincere doubt is the seed that, if planted and manured well with truths, could grow into a big life-giving tree.
It is in the light of the above sharing that we deduce the nature of YVM as it is localized in St. Charles Lwanga Delegation. By the fact that we are a branch on the same tree, the above reality of the world is similar to St. Charles Lwanga Delegation. Our ministry takes into consideration all the challenges mentioned above with hope. We work to help the youths to know that they are victors and not victims to the challenges above. We offer to them opportunities to be proponents of religious, socio-political, and cultural unity. We continue to motivate them that the plan of God is on and shall not be overcome by those challenges that they pass through. The creativity and the energy within the young people are encouragements to the ministers working with the young people. The flexibility and the ability to imbibe the new is itself a gift to help the young people learn the old in a more new and creative way. This is where new approach is very effective in order to teach the values that seems old in the eyes of the young people. It is natural that everyone wants to feel useful in the community. Feeling underutilized or even useless by the youth in the Church and in the Community is detrimental. We need to look for the ways to make the young people feel useful and be able to contribute. This sense of responsibility in youths needs to be directed and guided for the good of the Church and the world at large.
To crown the discussion, I would say that there is a lot of goodness in our young people than we might realize it. Being close to them can help us to see this goodness within them and tap into that goodness for the good of the Church and the world. Very many good young people can be helped to live a vocation out of their informed decisions. So, it is the task of the Youth and Vocation ministers to help the youths carry out this informed decision by approaching them, journeying with them, dialoguing with them and guiding them so that the seed of vocation within them may grow into maturity.
June 1st, 2022.