By Faustin Kerumbe, M.Afr
Today, we believe that through Youth Ministry – in other words the Pastoral Care of the Youth – the Church can offer to young people something for their spiritual growth and human development. The Youth Apostolate is an investment in its own right for the future of the Church and society. As we once asked ourselves the question about what are we going to do or to be in life, in the same way, there are also many young people who are asking these same questions but without finding answers. Consequently they fall into despair. Can our Youth Ministry help them to find answers and offer hope? The mission is imperative: “Duc in altum!” (Launch into the deep)
Where are we?
Henley Parish is our field of pastoral work. It is in the Catholic Archdiocese of Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. I arrived at Henley Parish in December 2014. The Parish had been reopened in 2012 by Fr. Philippe Docq after more than twenty years without the presence of priests due to social and political conflicts. In 2015, Fr. George Okwii took over from Fr. Philippe but there was not, as yet, a proper parish structure. The five outstations that currently form Henley Parish were functioning independently. In December 2015, the 1st Parish Pastoral
Council was formed. I personally took over from Fr. George Okwii in 2016.
What is being done regarding Youth Ministry?
When I took over, Fr. Philippe Docq had already trained the altar servers in all the outstations. Martin Somda, a stagiaire, was also organizing the youth in two of the five outstations. In 2015, Fr. George Okwii introduced the Xaverian Movement. However everything had to be reorganized at all levels. Looking at the young people and taking into account the lengthy absence of priests, I was totally gripped by compassion at finding myself as a shepherd in the middle of lost sheep “…because they were like sheep without a shepherd...” (Mk 6:34b). I strongly felt the need to introduce Youth Ministry as part of our pastoral commitment as a matter of urgency. I was handed the job of youth chaplain by the community. In collaboration with the Parish Pastoral Council, the Youth Ministry was launched in April 2016 with the election of Youth leaders in each outstation. The chairpersons of these five outstations form the Parish Youth Executive. There are Patrons and Matrons representing the parents of the young people and the Parish Pastoral Executive is involved in all youth activities. From that time we started working together as a team. The first task of the Parish leaders was to build unity in the parish and to work together in collaboration with Parish Pastoral Council Executive members. Among the youth groups, we have different organizations such as the Xaverian Movement and Children of Mary Sodality.
The Altar Servers are also part of the Youth ministry. All the youth movements including the Xaverian movement, the Children of Mary and the Altar Servers fall under the responsibility of the Parish Youth Executive leadership. Together they form the youth of Henley parish. Different outstations have different problems but each outstation is encouraged, to adopt the activities of the parish and implement them at local level.
What is being done now is to keep the young people interested through various activities such as leadership training and skills development.
Some youth leaders are already members of the local Church Executive and are fully participating in Church activities. In that way we see our Youth Ministry as an investment project for the future of the Church and society at large.
All the youth activities are carried out in line with the yearly plan drawn up by the Parish Youth Executive. The primary aim is to bring the young people of Henley parish together and make the Church a welcoming environment for their spiritual growth and human development.
New Year events:
At the beginning of the year we have a special Mass for young people. All the intentions ask God to bless the young people and their families, to guide and to protect them throughout the year. On the last Sunday of January we have a motivational program for education under the theme: “Go back to school and shine.” This event is run by some qualified teachers who talk to the young people about the challenges of life and the importance of education.
Lenten Season activities
We can summarize our youth activities during the Lenten season under St Benedict’s principle, “Ora et labora.” Every second weekend of Lent we have a parish youth recollection day that starts with the Way of the Cross on a hilltop called KwaSabelo. The fourth weekend of Lent is the day of charity work at a school for blind people called “Bawinile Centre.” This event is organized in order to help young people enrich their spiritual life through prayers, contemplation and works of charity, to develop their sense of empathy, to sacrifice their basic needs for the benefit of the unprivileged or needy, to encourage young people to reach out and to put their faith into practice. During this period of Lent, the members of the Xaverian Movement and the altar servers select a poor family and then go and help them by cleaning and cooking.
July and August activities
On the first weekend of July, we have the Parish Youth Council. This is a moment where the young people come together to evaluate their activities for the past six months. It is also an opportunity for them to develop a spirit of communication and of listening to one another. In the second week of July we have the “Youth Winter camp”. This is the most successful event in the Parish. It is full of activities that young people like. It was introduced in 2016 at the parish level but for the last two years it has attracted numbers of young people from other parishes. So far the youth camp is the most important activity for young people as it brings them together and even non-Catholics come along. On their arrival they are given a team number and all the youth camp activities are conducted by teams. Each team with its leader coordinates the activities.
It gives them a chance to know each other and to overcome their differences as well as helping them to accept one another and to learn from one another. Furthermore, it helps them develop a spirit of teamwork and service, etc. On Saturday morning all the teams go to different families with a Gospel inspired theme and to witness to what the theme is inviting them to be by doing something practical. In the evening, they give a feedback on their mission. On Sunday afternoon they are given a talk on the Church and its mission; the place and the commitments of young people and vocations in Church. It is also a time to answer some of the questions the young people are asking about the Church especially about vocations and faith. In the evening before the departure day, the young people are put in two groups: boys and girls separately. They are given a talk on education to life under the topic: “men to men; women to women”.
In August we have the skills training for liturgy like keyboard training, singing and public reading. A fun walk and sports are also organized in August for young people to help them keep fit and for fundraising purposes in order to try to be self-sustainable financially knowing that many of our young people are still studying and unemployed.
December and summer activities
On the second weekend of December we have the second Parish Youth Council to evaluate the activities of the past year and to prepare plans for the coming year. The third weekend is the weekend for our summer outing to allow our young people to socialize, to relax and to meet their curiosity by discovering some interesting places. So far, our young people have toured to the Drakensberg Mountains, the Roseland Reserve and Richards Bay. The last weekend of December we have a closing Mass of Thanksgiving to God for everything He has done for the young people during the past year.
Synod on the Youth
The Synod on the Youth was successfully launched at the Archdiocesan level. However, there is a lack of communication between the Diocesan Youth Office, the Deanery and parishes in terms of follow up and implementation of the guidelines proposed for youth activities in parishes. Our deanery is suffering from the absence of a youth chaplain, as a result we continue with our own parish plan for the year.
In general the young people make their presence felt in our parish. We are thankful for their response and their participation in Church activities despite some challenges we encountered in the course of the year due to the school calendar. But there is hope and the future is bright. We started as a small group but today it reaches out beyond our parish. The unity among the young people, their active presence in Church and their participation in the Church’s outreach activities is a visible sign of the impact of our Youth Ministry. By throwing out our nets, we are gradually catching more young people. We hope that this growing tree that we are watering today will bear much fruit tomorrow for the benefit of the Church and its mission.
Source: Petit Echo, 2019 /05 – No 1101.