Church seeks to fill pews with youth by praise and worship

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(Art by Marie Kloie D. Ledesma/The Varsitarian)

CHARISMATIC movements are on the rise among Catholic clergy and laity, to address the youth’s need for companionship amid a decline in Church attendance.

Juan Carlos Libiran, a lay preacher at The Feast in Manila, said “engaging and fun” encounter is key to reaching out to the youth in search for a sense of belonging.

He emphasized the Church’s need to exert more effort in connecting with young people by creating meaningful relationships instead of parish-based activities like competitions and youth camps.

“We want it to connect and appeal to the next generation so they can see and feel that our Church is alive and constantly finding ways in doing new evangelization,” he said in an email interview.

Libiran added that giving the youth the trust and time they need encourages them to share their talents and become more mature and responsible members of the Church.

The Feast is a charismatic movement founded by lay preacher and televangelist Eugenio Isabelo “Bo” Sanchez, Jr., and has an average of 3,500 weekly participants at their branch in the PICC Feast Bay Area.

Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Youth, said the Church welcomes Charismatic movements like The Feast which addresses the needs of the youth who get bored of rituals.

“In reaching out to the youth, the Church must be able to think according to what the youth have in mind. They should speak the language that [the youth] will understand,” the bishop of Bangued said.

Jaucian stressed the importance of young people in inviting their fellow youth to the Church, by sharing their personal experience and making them feel welcome in the community.

He added that Christian communities must strive to create an atmosphere where an authentic spiritual encounter may occur.

“Kasi kung minsan, we just end in activities… [I] hope the Church will bring the youth to places where they are able to have a personal encounter with Christ,” he said.

Sense of belonging sought by youth
Miguel Aquino, fourth-year marketing student and a former Catholic, said seeking a community where a sense of belonging is present led to his conversion to the Victory church.

“In my experience, in terms of community in the Catholic Church, it’s very impersonal. People just go in and out. You don’t even know [who’s] the person beside you,” he said in an interview with the Varsitarian.

Aquino said religious practices become routine if people forget the heart of worship and serving God.

“If we want to increase church attendance, let’s not bank on the nakasanayan or tradition. Let’s look at what the Bible says… [W]e have to [create] a healthy community of love, fun, faith and family,” he said.

Reginald Zamora, O.P., pioneer of the Dominican-Studentate band The Joyful Friars, said the Church needs to revisit its traditional and cleric-centered approach if it is to improve youth attendance.

“We have our shortcomings, that’s why they’re transferring. I often attend Victory services in the past and I observed that they are very much people centered. People feel that they are the owners of the church there,” he said.

The Social Weather Stations survey reported a 24-point decline in church weekly attendance from 1991 to 2017.

It added that among major religions in the country, the Catholic Church’s weekly attendance has been the lowest at 41 percent.

Echoing Jaucian, Zamora said Catholic charismatic groups like The Feast are an effective means of reaching out to the youth.

“We’re looking for solutions, and the concrete [solution] is to support The Feast. What is lacking in the Catholic Church is being provided by The Feast. I hope the Church becomes more open to these kinds of movements,” he said.

Eucharist and music
Fr. Giuseppe Pietro Arsciwals, O.P., founder of an all-priest band called Inggô 1587, said music provides an easier means in preaching the hard truths of the Gospel to young people.

“Most people, particularly the youth abhor preaching that is ‘preachy.’ They do not want to be “preached at.” [T]hrough our songs, both originals and covers, we try to transmit the message in a way that is easy to absorb and understand,” he said.

Acknowledging the youth’s desire for companionship, Arsciwals said their music ministry allows people to feel that priests are also approachable and available in accompanying the youth.

Zamora, who is taking his licentiate in preaching, acknowledged that Catholic liturgy is irreplaceable, and music is only employed to catch the attention of the youth and promote vocations to the priesthood.

“It’s only in the Church that we are really able to receive the Eucharist which is the true body and blood of Christ. In other churches, it’s just a symbol, so they’re missing a lot,” he said.

Inggô 1587 and The Joyful Friars will be having a joint concert on November 17 in Quezon City.

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