The challenges of the Year of Youth

THE DIOCESAN YEAR of Youth will soon draw to a close. Over the past two years, the Church community took new steps with young people, listening, facing challenges together and walking hand in hand on the path to holiness. The last stage has not been not easy as the protest against the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill rocked Hong Kong and brought major challenges to the Church. 

A diocesan organisation held a gathering on the October 19 to allow the clergy to respond to the concerns of young people on the social issues that have emerged over the past few months. Despite disappointment and anxiety, young people still hope to walk with the Church. The clergy, who appreciated their participation and sharing, considered it a learning opportunity.

To enhance cohesion between parishes and young people at schools, the Diocesan Youth Commission encouraged the formation of small faith groups, providing meeting materials at pilot schools, offering support at parishes and helping to train leaders. Many groups have also promoted the DOCAT: Catholic Social Teaching for Youth to help members think about the current situation and consider how best to serve in light of their faith. It is encouraging to see young people take a proactive role and bear witness. The Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students re-affirmed the principle of justice within and outside the Church and made reflections according to Catholic social teaching.

These experiences of accompaniment and participation echo the theme of Practice, Belief, Youth declared by the diocese. The theme encourages us to listen to and accept young people, giving them room to grow and empower them to identify and realise their own vocation.

However, the sense of powerlessness they experienced following the Umbrella Movement has extended to the protest against the now-withdrawn extradition bill. While actions have demonstrated civic solidarity, various social values, differing viewpoints and the unstable situation have hindered young people from discerning and responding to God’s call. The deep sense of confusion and anxiety has deterred them from making promises about their future.

Pope Francis’ post-synod apostolic exhortation, Christus Vivit, following the Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment, can help young people recognise their roots in the Church and society, and live out their faith on the road to holiness.

The pope listed a number of ways to help young people to grow. However, he has also pointed out that discernment requires a certain degree of solitude and silence (283). Yet it does not make us close in our ourselves. It emphasises that sheer vitality and strength of personality combine in the hearts of young people to make them constantly aim higher (290). We must also remember prayerful discernment.

In the face of the anxieties faced by young people on the path to holiness, the Church, at this turning point, must be profound spiritual companion by cultivating a culture of listening and walking together.

Pope Francis reminds us, “If you are to accompany others on this path, you must be the first to follow it, day in and day out” (298). So, adults and youth workers should make use of the growth experience during the Year of Youth to nurture spiritual sensitivity and focus so that they too can discover peace and vocation side by side with young people. SE

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