16-30 group

World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon attracted well over a million young people from all over the world to be with Pope Francis.  Although we were not able to send any of our own parishioners to this amazing event, Archbishop Mark is bringing together a diocesan Youth Team to get things going in South Wales.  So watch this space!

Meanwhile, Fr Gareth Leyshon, Parish  Priest at St Dyfrig’s, Treforest and neighbouring communities writes…

 “What shall we do for the young people?”

Active members of Catholic parishes up and down the country  ask the same question. The common experience of parishes is that, at some age between teens and twenties, young people vanish – some to university, and others simply lose interest in church life, or feel out of place there.

So let’s ask another question. When the young people do stay involved in church, what keeps them? Three things seem to help, depending on the temperament of individual young people: good friendships, a shared enthusiasm for a “good cause”, and coherent teaching that makes sense of our Catholic faith without ducking the hard questions.

There’s quite a few “good causes” around for youth at the moment. Many young people from our diocese go to Lourdes each year to help the sick. The Society of St Vincent de Paul now has full-time UK promoters for its youth and student branches, with a thriving group at the Cardiff University Chaplaincy.  Young Christian Worker groups help young people to “See, Judge, Act” where the Gospel needs to be lived out in their lives. All of these things are good – and they plug into young people’s natural enthusiasm to change the world for the better.

How, then, can we complement this by presenting the Catholic faith in a way which young people can relate to? One successful model has been used by the charity “Youth 2000” since 1990 – a weekend retreat centred around the Eucharist. If we really believe that Jesus is present in a unique way in the Blessed Sacrament, wouldn’t we want to celebrate Mass with joyful enthusiasm, and let our worship spill over into prolonged praise of Jesus present among us? Perhaps we could place the consecrated Host in the centre of the gathering, surrounded by blazing candles, and worship a little longer? Perhaps all night? A whole weekend? And encourage young people to come before Jesus and seek his help and healing? They’ll need encouragement, of course, so let’s have some young people talk about how they have already discovered Christ’s presence and help in their lives… and it works. Run by young people for young people, Youth 2000 is still going after 19 years, and has been the vehicle through which many young people (the present author included) found their vocation to priesthood, marriage, or the religious life.