Sunday, March 30, 2008

Being more proactive in reaching out to the young

Complacency will only lead to our downfall

I read with interest the passionate plea by A Former Student,We are losing the battle!” that was published in the Herald dated March 30.In fact this is not the first time such messages of plight from fellow Catholics have been published but it is regrettable that all such pleas seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.

Having my own children in college, I appreciate the tremendous influence of the secular world on our young students who are away from home. The plight of A Former Student is real and I fully agree with him that the Catholic Church is facing a risk of losing a significant number of Catholic students at the tertiary level to other faiths.

We have been under the wrong pretext that being actively involved in the church organizations is all that is required to withstand the temptations of the material world. It could have been true before but definitely not so in our modern era of the internet where all the good values that we cherished have been thrown out as irrelevant.

A Former Student is very true in saying ‘Being active in church activities, singing in the choir, memorising facts and prayers will not make our faith bullet proof. It is also a delusion to think that Praise and Worship, Charismatic Prayer Group and other feel-good factors will sustain the youngsters’ faith.’

Yes, there is much more to just attending church, singing and chanting at mass, reciting prayer, making pilgrimages and participating in rites and rituals. As parents it is easy to take our children to church and make them participate in all the activities there but more difficult to instill the true values that Christ taught which can only be done by our own exemplary behavior. We do lot of things to show that we love God whom we cannot see or touch but do nothing to show that we love fellow men who are physically present amidst us. There is a need to feel the living Christ in not just within ourselves but in those around us as well.

A major reason for our students in campuses to go astray is that we as parents, teachers and pastors have failed in our duties towards them. We have failed to be with them when they needed us most during their lonely years in college when they experience some form of cultural shock. Our Church doesn’t seem to be aware of the problems of the youngsters in their midst, unlike those from other denominations and religions. How often do our priests and other church workers reach out to them? It is sad that they are not even interested to meet them when they come to church.

On the other hand, our brethren from other Christian denominations and even other faiths are so supportive and caring for these students who are ‘lost’ in the wilderness of the big cities and towns. They use all their resources at their disposal to reach out to all students, even those not their own members. Some are willing to even offer financial help to those in need. In short they are there, with love, care and assistance, when these are needed most.

It is important for our bishops, priests and other church authorities to look out for young people like A Former Student who have so much passion and love, recruit them into the Campus Ministry and utilize their ideas and talents in reaching out to fellow students who are in need of company and comradeship.

The Campus Ministry is not a government ministry, where people come to apply for aid, but a Ministry of Christ’s love where that love has to be actively carried to those in need especially those out of our reach. People like A Former Student are assets who should be utilized in that ‘evangelization’ and not considered as threats and conveniently ignored only to be lost into oblivion, which is the standard practice in our Catholic Church today.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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