The formation of youth is part of the mission of the Church, so it is not unusual to find in a diocese some form of youth ministry. The Catholic Youth Ministry (CYM) is the official agency supporting and promoting youth ministry in the Archdiocese of Perth. Here is a way of reflecting on the work they and other youth ministry teams do. I call it “M & Ms.” There are three “m-words” associated with youth ministry teams that operate as official agencies of their respective dioceses: mandate, mission and ministry.
The word mandate means “to give official permission for something to happen.” The word comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning “commission, command, order.” The word carries with it a sense of obligation, of duty. There is more than a hint of the obligation to use one’s gifts and talents in the service of others.
The CYM team for the Archdiocese of Perth, Western Australia is mandated to assist “young people” in schools, parishes and tertiary institutions from the age of 13 to 30 years of age “to build a deep and lasting relationship with Jesus and to help them discern their place in the Church and in the world.”
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe directs CYM to further “the Mission of the Church in accordance with the beliefs, values, traditions and social teaching of the Church.” The CYM team responds in the following way: “We aim to develop and support Christ-centered youth leaders through resources and training, and inspiring them to build communities of faith.”
One of the ways CYM carries out its mission is a weekly gathering of Catholic young adults. They have named its current format “Common Ground.” The focus is on establishing “what it means to live a life of purpose and meaning as a Catholic.” It is their hope that those who attend will encounter Christ and will commit themselves to “making a positive difference in the world.”
In their weekly gatherings, the team prays with those who attend and they provide opportunities for faith formation, music ministry, online ministry and ministry support. What is of concern here is the failure to acknowledge directly Archbishop Costelloe’s reference to using “the social teaching of the Church” in their work of forming youth leaders. It is possible and, hopefully, likely that they do so in some of their breakout sessions. And certainly, they do acknowledge and support organisations, such as Caritas and Vinnies, whose work epitomises faith in action.
There is much that youth ministry teams can learn from studying the life and work of Joseph Cardijn. For example, in 1961, he addressed the participants at the close of the Second International Council of the YCW in Rio de Janeiro.
He said: “… the mission is great and it is God and it is Christ who sends us to the hundreds of millions, to the billions of workers of the earth. And that is why our hope is not a utopia, our hope is not a deception, our hope will not disappoint the young workers of the world, because in our heart lives the love of Christ who sends us, who sustains us and it is He who, through us, wants to save the young workers of all races and all continents.”
The energy and the enthusiasm for the work of the leaders he helped to form is evident in his speech. His confidence had come from his commitment to God to spend his life working with young workers to form them in faith.
The YCW continues in the twenty-first century to form leaders whose work is their commitment to making a positive difference in the world. Theirs is faith in action made evident in their commitment to stand in solidarity with the poor, the homeless, the disadvantaged, the dispossessed.
The challenge for youth ministry teams, such as CYM, is to seek opportunities to learn from and promote the work of apostolic groups and movements, such as the YCW. It is vital that they continue to provide the space for young people to reflect on their relationship with Christ. It is also necessary for them to enlist the aid of those whose mission is to promote faith in action to work with them to fulfil the mandate given to them.
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Fr Joseph Cardijn’s closing address at the Second International Council of the YCW, 1961