Young Catholics Reshaping the Church

(2015/2) Editor(s): Solnge Lefebve (c), Silvias Scatena, Maria Clara Bingemer
Cover Page

Articles of the issue

Young Catholics Reshaping the Church


This issue of 2015 starts with some good news about young adults: they have voices and they speak loudly. As one of them, Kevin Ahern wrote to me, “there is a narrative in Europe and North America (and elsewhere) that young Catholics do not care about Vatican II. That the battles of the 68ers is over and that somehow the Concilium movement is something for older generations.  Yet, Concilium and Vatican II are still relevant to young scholars today.”

Forty years ago, in 1975, Concilium published an issue entitled Project X: Les jeunesetl’avenir de l’Église or Project X: Youth and the Future of the Church. It had a dramatic tone right from the beginning, stating that young adults were not integrated in the Church, that they were disenchanted, and had thus distanced themselves from the Church – even if Jesus Christ still exerted a certain power of attraction. They were most of all “Christians without a Church.” When reading the lines of this 1975 introduction, it almost sounds like it was written in 2015: increasing non-belief among young adults; failure in the transmission of faith to young adults, crises in religious and priesthood vocations; the aging of Church staff; cultural and spiritual marginalisation of the Church in relation to the thinking of young adults. These similarities suggest that one ought to make a distinction between ‘Age’ and ‘Generations.’ The implication of this distinction means that while some may keep their distance from the Church while they are young adults, they sometimes reintegrate into this sphere later on during the course of their lives. This in-between age group—between childhood and adulthood—can be absent from certain areas of the life of the Church, but it does not mean that they will be absent throughout their entire lives. Interestingly, the introduction continues by stating that the editors had great difficulty finding young authors interested in writing about the Church, and the only ones they found were located in Europe.

Ten years later, in 1985, another Concilium issue focused on the great economic crisis that young adults were facing. The issue bore the affected title: Youth Without a Future?, inspired by the rock group The Sex Pistols and the lyrics of their song No Future, that had become a slogan. That year was proclaimed, by the United Nations, International Year of Youth (IYY), and was the first to see an International Day of Youth. Pope John Paul II would invite young adults from around the world to meet him at Saint Peter’s Square, and that would mark the beginning of the Catholic World Youth Days. The central problem on which the issue reflected was the high rate of unemployment among young adults. It references a few surveys results about the uncertainty youth face regarding their future, especially in relation to the environment and the fear of nuclear war. Again, the issue pointed out the gaps between the youth generation and the Church in many countries.

Thirty more years later, and here we are again, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, and fifty years after Vatican II, speaking about young adults. Alongside more seasoned theologians, this issue gives voice to a number of young academics and theologians as well. And this time, it seems they were much easier to find than in either 1975or 1985, maybe because the youth condition has become more integrated in our school curricula since the sixties, being seen as a basic condition from where an individual can speak for, like it is the case for visible minorities, women and homosexuals. Don’t we invite our young students to reflect from their own conditions, in the North and the South? Don’t social organisations try to have a youth committee in their organizational structures?

But how do youth do theology? Do they feel that they have more power on the global scene, notably in the Church? How do they see their place in the Church?

Young Catholics Reshaping the Church

Table of Contents

1) Jeunesse et foi chrétienne. Vers une dynamique de coéducation intergénérationnelle dans l’Église catholique ? - Solange Lefebvre, Canada

2) From Spectators to Protagonists: Youth Movements in a Global Church - Kevin Ahern, USA

3) Young Adults and the Catholic Universities Around The World. International Survey 2014 - Rosa Aparicio Gómez, Andrés Tornos and a young collaborator, Spain

4) Hopes and Expectations of young adults in the Church - Cesar Kuzma

5) Venir à Taizé, comme l'on vient chez soi : L'expérience de la communauté de Taizé avec les jeunes adultes - Frère Maxime, France

6) "Tremendum et fascinosum". Experiences of young parents as a challenge to theology - Annemie Dillen, Belgium

7) Longing for More: College Hook-up Culture and the Christian Recovery of Full Humanity - Jennifer Beste, USA

8) La prima generazione incredula: Millennials e fede - Armando Matteo, Italy

9) Critical review of Visions of Hope: Emerging Theologians and the Future of the Church - Katherine A. Greiner

Theological Forum

10. En finir avec l’écologie … Ou bâtir des Églises Vertes? - Norman Lévesque, Canada

11. Otto Hermann Pesch zum Gedächtnis - Dorothea Sattler, Germany

12. Peripateite en agapi – Ambulate in dilectione - Alberto Melloni, Italy

13. Papstbesuch in Sri Lanka und in den Philippinen - Georg Evers

Young People and Christian Faith

Solange Lefebvre

Are we moving towards a form of intergenerational co-education in the Catholic Church? In order to answer this question, the following article calls on at St Augustine’s Confessions to remind us that in many waysyoung people today are no different from their predecessors of centuires ago, although several commentries on youth seen to assume that their characteristics and problems are ascribable only to the modern era. The article summarizes the main aspects of thinking about young people, contemporary questions with regard to them and relevant challenges posed by the Synod of the Family and the life of the Church. Readers are asked to consider how relations between the generations in the present socio-cultural complex of events and influences can indeed prove sources of co-educational encouragement and inspiration. The author concludes that it is essential to include young adults in all major examinations of the life of the Catholic Church.

Youth Movements in a Global Church

Kevin Ahern - Abstract

This paper explores the role of contemporary international Catholic youth movements in empowering young people to become, what Pope Francis has described as, “protagonists of contemporary events.” This paper outlines six broad types of Catholic youth movements and the obstacles that exist for meaningful youth participation. It concludes by briefly considering how youth movements would benefit from a recovery of the concept of the youth apostolate.

Young People in Catholic Universities

Rosa Aparicio Gomez, Andrés Tornos & Diego Rodríguez Azcárate - Abstract

Now-a-days, getting into university and the approach most young people take to their studies and their university environment not only represent a tremendously important stage of life for them, but go a long way to shape the world in which they will as adults, making it different from the one that we of the older generations have organized for them. The Church’s universities, committed by their statutes to ‘to contribute to the progress of knowledge and its applications and to the development of a more just and human world in the light of reason and faith through the ferment of the Gospel’ play a part in this process. The question arises: do the young people who go to these universities also accept these objectives, or do they simply coexist with the educational approach that seeks to achieve them and use their own approaches to get the degrees they want, according to their own value system? In these processes young people themselves show us their personalities, what values govern their action, how they see the world, what idea they have of political systems and what future they are aiming at. An opportunity to examine this question has recently been provided by the International Federation of Catholic Universities publication of a detailed study of its students. The study, carried out between 2012 and 2014, was designed to give university administrators a snapshot of the university. A sample of almost 17,000 students from these universities around the world was interviewed. ….

Church, Hope and Young People

Cesar Kuzma – Abstract

In this discussion about the Church, hope and Young people, in which I as a Young theologian want to find room for boldness, I have tried to introduce a Little of that hope the conciliar and post-conciliar Church placed and still places in Young people and to show the hope that nourishes Young people today, the forcé that keeps them alive and active. My question is: ‘What does the Church expect from young people and what do young people expect from the Church? ‘ The underlying question i show to enable the hopes of young people to nurture the hope of the Church and how the meeting of the two can lead, dialectically, to the greater hope, the cause of the Kingdom. A task like forces theology to be bold in a new way, to abandon its fixed identity and go out to meet the other.

Young Adults at Taize

Frère Maxime - Abstract

The following is my account, as a brother of the ecumenical community of Taize, France, of the typical reception and experince of various groups of young adults constantly welcomed by the community throughout the year : We watch young people developing and talking like adults, with their hearts still full of enthusiasm. They seem so wise and mature that we ask ourselves whether education isn’t really teaching no-adults to do adult things to an acceptable degree. This brings us to the nothio of time and how young people relatew to it in the West. Time is ‘enternized’ in thr continuous present of the internet and seems to have a number of characteristics that belong properly to the hereafter. But this time free from the constriants of a preordained end cannot plumb infinite possibilities. Paradoxically, this time that doesn’t pass as time passes creates a frustrating bottleneck. Can I manage it all? What is the best thing to do? Then the slow time of spiritual maturing, the liturgical time that breaks the circle, sounds a liberating note. We realize that prayer, like breating, could become one of the lungs of a new interest in the Gospel in societies where the Church has to reinvent itself.

Theology and Young Parents

Annemie Dillen - Abstract

Many young parents experience their pregnancy and parenthood as a fascinating blessing, but often, they struggle at the same time with new role-expectations, and try to balance anxiety and trust. In this article we describe the ambiguous character of the existential and spiritual experiences of new parents in reference to empirical research. We investigate to what degree church teachings and biblical texts might be inspiring for young parents. Most people will think about classical biomedical issues around pregnancy or about religious education. We refer in this contribution to one example of parenthood in the biblical and ecclesial tradition, the figure of Mary. We focus on the aspects of ‘trust’ and ‘letting go’, as it is especially difficult for young parents to deal with a lack of control when being pregnant and becoming a parent. In the last part of this contribution we argue for a church that welcomes young parents. This can be done by taking into account their experiences in all their ambiguity and by referring to realistic, and less idealistic aspects of the Christian tradition that can speak to the parents of today. Parents will feel themselves much more welcomed if their complex life situation is addressed in the church, during liturgy, but also in the preparation of sacraments or in other gatherings. Children need to be welcomed in church as well, and this needs more than an ‘inclusive’ vision. Real participation of young parents and children asks for a critical reflection on the implicit or explicit norms of the church community. This critical reflection means at the same time a reflection on young adults who cannot (yet) be a parent and also need to be recognized.

Longing for More: College Hook-up Culture

Jennifer Beste - Abstract

This article reflects theologically and ethically on college students’ challenges to become fully human and experience joy and fulfillment in the context of contemporary college hookup culture. Comparing the “way of being” intrinsic to the social milieu of hookup culture with the “way of being” modeled by Christ as described by Catholic theologian Johannes Metz, readers gain a valuable tool for discerning their deepest desires concerning sexuality and relationships. Further, learning to realize a “yes” to God and their true selves, they are drawn to the “poverty of spirit” that constitutes our human mandate and mission.

The First Faithless Generation

Armando Matteo - Abstract

This article describes and examines generational and male and female aspects of the characteristic attitudes of faithof young adults today in the countries of the secularized West. Attention is paid to the past and present practice of the adult generation in this regard and their responsibility for the changes in the religious behaviour of young people. The article also studies the association between the longing for human happiness and the Gospel message, as the essential basis for the transmission of the Christian faith throughout history. The author offers certain warnings and proposals in the light of his findings.

Visions of Hope: A Critical Review

Katherine A. Greiner - Abstract

In March 2012, young theologians and theology students from around the world gathered at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, MA, USA, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The primary goal of this conference was to allow young theologians from a wide variety of cultural and ecclesial contexts to reflect on the significance and relevance of Vatican II in light of the challenges that the Church faces today. Visions of Hope: Emerging Theologians and the Future of the Church (Kevin J. Ahern, (ed.) Maryknoll, NY, 2013) represents the fruit of this endeavour. It was the 2014 Catholic Press Association Book Award Winner.

Goodbye Ecology or Build Green Churches?

Theological Forum 

  • Norman Levesque

Although Concilium has often raised or discussed the question of ecology, and theologies of creation and the environment have been developed in recent years, some ordinary Catholics are still rather suspicious of what they see as an ecological agenda or ideology. There are hundreds of books on the theology of creation that seem to be freely available in many religious libraries and bookshops. Nevertheless, we are still without any sustained activity in church life that testifies to environmental concerns. We urgently need a pastoral theology or approach to creation. Unfortunately, local churches meet with certain problem in this regard.

In Memory of Otto Herman Pesch

  • Dorothea Sattler

Concilium commemorates the life and work of Otto Hermann Pesch (1931-2014), the Catholic historian of dogma, ecumenical theologian and former Dominican and Professor of Controversial Theology in the Protestant Theology Faculty of the University of Hamburg, Germany from 1975 to 1998. Pesch was celebrated well beyond the Germany-speaking world as an expert on the theology of Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther and was the author of central works, including a multivolume ecumenical study of Catholic dogma published in 2008-10.

Walk in Love

  • Alberto Melloni

The essay examines the discourses of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope during their meeting in Constantinople on the feast of St. Andrew, on 29-30 November 2015.

in the exchange of greetings and commitments it has emerged the question of participation of the other churches in the pan-Orthodox council of 2016 and the solemn repetition of the commitment to use and recognize the exercise of the Petrine ministry in the form of "first millennium": but a added on the unity of faith - question whose background is the centenary of Nicaea I - forces us to reflect on the theological quality of existing units and its consequences.

Pope Francis in Sri Lanka and the Philippines

  • Georg Evers

Pope Francis wishes to pay special attention to the vast continent of Asia and the local Asian churches. Yet another indication of Asia’s great significance for the Pope was his visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January 2015, before visiting local churhces in Europe or North America. Even as a young Jesuit, Francis showed his interest in Asia by applying for the Japanese missions, although eventually he was rejected on grounds of health.