The Derry Youth Community is involved in a variety of programmes: retreat work, religious education in schools, sacramental preparation, parish ministry. In all of these different fields we work to spread the Gospel among the youth of the diocese, to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19), no matter weather they are 4 or 14 or 24 years old.
All of us had their specific and very personal reasons to come to Derry and to pick up those tasks, in fact, our backgrounds could hardly be more different as well as our experience and foreknowledge in youth ministry.
Hence being part of the DYC is by its very nature a process of learning, growing professionally and intellectually.
Therefore it was to our great pleasure and certain benefit to be given the opportunity to participate in a programme which took place in St. Eugene’s Cathedral’s Mother Theresa Chapel in January 2018: Three talks approaching the question how to hand on the faith to the next generation.
This topic was just the headline to a whole cluster of questions touching the core of youth ministry: Why do we hand on our faith? What is our legitimation to do so? What is our self-image as professing Catholics? leading forced to: What is it, that we want to hand on? Where does it come from? Can it change? Or does it even have to, to be appealing? In which situation are we attempting to pass it on? And to whom exactly? all concluding in: What can we personally do?
To answer these questions as a herculean task and its sheer monstrosity could be discouraging.
Conducting the talks Fr Paul Farren, administrator of the cathedral, took the sensible approach to draw answers from the personal experience of the participants.
On the first evening this led to two results evoking two very different reactions: Whilst our environment grows worryingly indifferent or even hostile towards our faith (1.), we still have the most convincing argument on our side, the person of Jesus.
Since he is at the centre of our faith, he was also at the centre of the second evening. God who became man, “a man like us in all things but sin” (Eucharistic Prayer IV), with a family and friends, emotions, hopes and fears, who suffered bitter rejection and betrayal, but nevertheless never stopped loving and forgiving, “not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved” (Jn 3:17). This is what we are handing on, not a set of rules, nut a friendship with the living God, who thirsts to love and to be loved.
But how do we love God, what does he want us to do? The Church gives answers and how to deal with them, even though they might be controversial or unpopular today, was the theme of the third evening: “For in sacrifice you take no delight, / burnt offerings from me you would refuse, / my sacrifice, a contrite spirit. / A humbled and contrite heart you will not spurn.”(Ps 51:16-17)
The feedback from the numerous participants was overwhelmingly appreciative, but it is up to us, for there is no conversion without the living example: Let us go out to live and preach the Good News and, when God is with us, we will bring his light into the world.