I was driving through one of the better-looking suburbs of Palmerston North today (September 26) and saw a beautiful sight. Pink blossoms in the sun, heralding the onset of spring. This is great news! Yes, that’s right, you doubting Thomases! There are nice suburbs in Palmy, and the sun does shine here! Who would have thought it.
It’s amazing how much easier it is to see goodness when the sun is shining! Spring has to be in some ways my favourite season because it means that the weather is only going to get better and the days longer and next winter is almost a year away.
I was on my way to spending an hour with a group of Year 6 students and I was pondering the state of young people and their place in the Church in New Zealand. Spring is a very apt season of the year to be thinking about this—not winter—that would be a bit glum and wrong because the church in Aotearoa is doing great stuff. Nor summer as I don’t believe that we are quite there yet.
Spring speaks to us of new life and of growth and it helps us to forget that winter (what has gone before) was, at times, a bit miserable. Spring also brings an element of struggle, of giving birth to something good, something worthwhile and maybe even something new.
In these post-World Youth Day times (that is how I think life has now become divided for me—pre and post-WYD!) I believe we are in a springtime. We want to be able to celebrate young people in the church. We want to give them a place here and now. Remember, if young people are just the future of the church, they never get the chance to be the now of the church! But identifying just what all of this looks, sounds and feels like is a real challenge. I don’t believe that it is all about churches full of young people. I’m not even sure I, as a Catholic youth minister, would want that.
The group of young adults in Palmerston North, post WYD, have become something new. They are meeting tonight to confirm the growth of a new community that is growing together. If we, as youth ministers, are doing our jobs right, we should almost be making ourselves redundant—so that we are no longer needed to help form communities of young people who want to spend time together, pray together, and serve together.
Our church would do well to recognise these communities of energetic, faith-filled disciples as a spring time gift to our church. The trick is identifying how we can, in relationship with them, draw them into a meaningful participation in the life, mission and work of the Catholic faith community.
I don’t believe that a WYD legacy will mean thousands of young people in church on Sunday mornings. The life, mission and work of the Catholic faith community is so much more than attending Mass. But, it would be nice, if young people are at Mass, that they are greeted and welcomed. It might even be an idea to help them to understand the different aspects involved. I know when I understand why I am doing something, it makes me more likely to get something from it, gain meaning and return for more. God bless springtime!
Palmerston North youth leader, Jonny Boon, perhaps not exactly contemplating spring at home after a night in the open at Sydney’s Randwick Racecourse for World Youth Day last July.