1 Jul 2006 | CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE
Catholic Ministry with Young People in Aotearoa New Zealand
At the beginning of the 21st century, the Church in New Zealand is more aware than ever of the need to find new, creative and more effective ways of sharing the Gospel with young people. Even as we bring the Good News to them, we point to its intrinsic presence, to the action of the Spirit of Jesus already evident in their lives. Ministry with young people is about journey and relationship. We accompany each one as they discover Christ’s call within and discern how they will live this out.
This truth has led us over the last several decades toward a renewal of our understanding of the young in our midst. The Church recognises Catholic ministry with young people as:
In these ways the Church seeks to be an authentic school of discipleship for the young people of this country. Even as we seek to discover and grow the seeds of the Gospel present in their lives, we acknowledge the presence of other seeds sown by social and economic forces that encourage greater individualism and consumerism. We stand for a counter-cultural ideal that is nothing less than radical.
As societal pressures make it increasingly difficult for the family/whanau to find time together, the young risk being deeply influenced by an entertainment media promoting a culture of isolation. Never have Gospel values been more needed. The challenge to those who would minister with our young is to continue to find ways to link the story of Jesus with the real-life experiences of young people in Aotearoa New Zealand today.
One story from Jesus’ ministry which has a message for young disciples is that of the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn 4:4-42 – see Appendix, p.22).
Recall for a moment this complex yet beautiful, shocking yet intimate, tale of a weary Jesus ‘doing’ theology with a stranger at a well in a ‘foreign’ land. He simply asks for a drink and so begins an intriguing exchange that ventures deeply into the theological but remains firmly rooted in the daily grind of life in Samaria. Where John reports others acting as Jesus’ foil with the occasional good question, this most unlikely of partners engages the rabbi in a joust matched nowhere else in the fourth Gospel. This story is many things; but, on the face of it, it is the story of a woman’s journey to faith and to a ministry of leadership with others in her community. It is a story of standing tall.
There have been many programmes, leaders and youth ministers who have inspired and positively influenced the young people in the Catholic Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. Many continue to do so today. We are indebted to them all, past and present, for their energy and commitment to the Gospel.
As in the past, there continues to be a wide range of Catholic events for young people that bring people together from various cultures and backgrounds. These take place at all levels – parish/faith community, regional, diocesan, national and even international. Opportunities for our young to express their faith, and to stand tall as they do this, are growing. This is indeed a sign of great hope.
This ministry has never been one for the faint-hearted. Those involved in leading the young are recognised as valued and capable pastoral ministers in a critical and challenging area of contemporary Church life. Those who lead our young accept the challenge of showing the relevance of faith in the face of an often sceptical clientele. The rewards, however, are immense.
John A. Dew
Archbishop of Wellington
Conference Deputy for the National Council for Young Catholics