Around the World
Voices of the people. These are items sent in by our advisors, partners and friends from around the world. Signs of hope and stories that they want to share with all of us. Activities they have participated in. Initiatives they have taken. Ways they have walked. Turns they have taken. Where they have stood and walked in solidarity, in prayer, in seaking and searching.
REPORT ON ONLINE YOUNG ADULT SEEKERS SMALL CHRISTIAN
COMMUNITY GATHERING HELD ON THURSDAY 15th SEPTEMBER 2022
Prepared by Staicy Wandiema
Members present Father Joe Healey, Kenya, Alloys Nyakundi, Kenya, Gerard Mang’era, Kenya, Collins Ong’oma, Kenya, Meg MacCarthy, USA, Jenipher Tumuhaise, Uganda, Juma,Uganda, Brenda, Uganda, Redemptah Mutie, Kenya, Nazi, Pakistan, Irene, Kenya, and Staicy Wandiema, Kenya, Ashik, Pakistan, Rabecca, Uganda and Richard Dayoo, Tanzania.
The meeting began with a word of prayer from Ashiknaz
The topic of discussion: What is our identity as young Adults Seekers Small ChristianCommunity?
Alloys welcomed members to the online gathering, giving insights about the topic ofdiscussion, the goal and mission of the catholic church Reform international, and posingquestions to members. We had a minute of silence to invite the Holy Spirit. Later on, he gavean opportunity to each young adult to share his/ her experience
Irene explained what an identity is and why it is important for someone to know theirsidentity and the dangers of basing our identity on something that can be taken away. She thenread a verse from 1st Peter 2:9 and said that what forms part of our identity is the fact that weare chosen by GOD
Nazi said that as young people we are called to lead and serve
Meg McCarthy conquered with what Irene said regarding the definition of identity, she reminded us on the issues that we had raised a while back, and in terms of finding our identity as a groupWe don't need a consensus on the issues, but rather an agreed upon focus and working withgroups in the past to synthesize our identity as young people.
Jenipher said that physical meetings will reinforce our identity and as part of spreading theword out about our virtual gatherings, she is going to form a physical gathering with other Ugandans to move to different campuses and preach the Gospel. She also suggested that we could have logos and t-shirts that will facilitate easy identification of the group.
Juma said that we should maintain our identity as young seekers because we are alwaysseeking to do better as young people and to find solutions to the challenges that young peopleare facing out there
Collins Ong’oma shared his experience that for the past 7 years he has always been recognizedas a person who champions for the young people in his parish, deanery but also in the diocese. This formed his identity. He said that we all could find a common problem that we are facing as young people globally and how we can reinforce our talk
Alloys said that the CCRI vision was for the young people to come together and be where theywant to be. He said that whatever we do personally in our Small Christian Communities forms part of our identity and that we should emulate the analogy of Jesus and his disciples, after Jesus formed the 12 disciples, he sent them out to the world, and we are also being sent to address the issues affecting young people out there.
Redemptah said that for the past two months we had been raising issues about the challengeswe are facing and that we should re-evaluate ourselves to see if we have found solutions and whether we are in line with our goals and mission as the group
Mang’era Gerard said that identity will give us a sense of belonging in the online world anddirection in our online gatherings, and one thing that will contribute to identity is if we have a mission and vision that cuts across our different regions.
Becky said that we should invite more people to join our gatherings and with this, we can easilyfind solutions.
Ashiknaz said that Pakistan is one of the countries that is being affected by climate change,hunger, and lack of shelter and he also called on the developed countries to help thedeveloping countries and put Pakistan in prayers.
Staicy said that the fact that we are young adults, forms our identity and that we are like asafety net where young adults come through to share their issues. Father joe said that we should have an inner reflection on our identity because this will reallyimpact who we are
Alloys then encouraged members to go beyond the Thursday meeting, he is also planning ona retreat with the Maryknoll young adults in preparation for Advent.
Climate change took the center stage in our last gathering and here is the chat room exchange between young seekers concerning climate change:
Ashiknaz Pakistan: Ecology,
Ashiknaz Pakistan: Thanks Alloys and Collins for raising issue of Climate change Ashiknaz Pakistan: Pakistan is badly affected with Climate change and due to monsoon catastrophe here is a huge flood. Flood is affected 40 million people and thousands of died
Ashiknaz Pakistan: right now, more than 60 percent country is under water, 82 districts of three provinces are disconnected
Tumuhaise Jenipher: True Thanks Alloys for the message, it’s not only keeping the sharing online, but moving to other small communities like the way he has talked about climate change, "LAUDATO SI response" that's what am working on especially to the young people how the environment can be conserved
Becky: Good evening, everyone. About our identity of our young seekers gathering, i think we should also make a physical gathering so that we can be able to meet and share more ideas. we can also be able to extend these services to our community so that they can help address their issues.
Irene Kariuki: Really sorry to hear what is happening in Pakistan, Ashik. May God protect you and your country people
Joseph G. Healey: Yes, prayers for the suffering people of Pakistan.
Ashiknaz Pakistan: Thanks Irene, Climate change is very serious issue and Pope Francis also insist on people through Laudato SI to care our common home Ashiknaz Pakistan: Thanks Fr Joe for your prayers.
Tumuhaise Jenipher: More so we are in the season of creation it started on 1st September it's ending on 4th October, may l request everyone to take action in that as we care for our common home thus responding to the cry of the earth and the poor, spread the gospel to other communities, thanks 🙏
Ashiknaz Pakistan: I am sorry, I want to thank you Alloys for calling us beautiful.
Ashiknaz Pakistan: We planted 500 trees in this monsoon at our parish and city
Tumuhaise Jenipher: Thank you Ashik for being an environmentalist
Mutie Redemptah: am really sorry for what is happening in Pakistan, climate change is an emerging issue which needs to be addressed worldwide.
Mang’era Gerard: Wow! Ashik that's a great initiative.
Ashiknaz Pakistan: Thank you all for the solidarity. God bless you and Keep Pakistan in your prayers.
Tumuhaise Jenipher: we shall keep you in our prayers Ashik🙏
Ashiknaz Pakistan: But hope we will meet physically soon under leadership of Fr. Joe
Ashiknaz Pakistan: It's good to have suggestions in common email
Mang’era Gerard: sorry my network is pathetic today.
The meeting was concluded by a word of prayer by Meg McCarthy.
The next gathering will be on Thursday 29th September 2022 and it will be facilitated by
REPORT ON ONLINE YOUNG ADULTS’ SEEKERS SMALL CHRISTIAN GATHERING HELD ON THURSDAY 18th AUGUST, 2022.
Prepared by Tumuhaise Jenipher.
Members present; Alloys -Kenya, Rabecca- Uganda, Gerald- Kenya, Collins-Kenya, Ashik-Pakistan, Staicy-Kenya, Juma-Uganda, Brenda-Uganda, Meg-USA, Redemptah-Kenya, Richard-Tanzania, Joe- Kenya and USA, Jenipher- Uganda and lrene - Kenya.
The meeting began with an opening prayer from Ashik and then the introduction of new members who joined us.
The topic of discussion: What young adults really want to talk about.
Guest facilitator: Father Joseph Healey, Maryknoll Missionary based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Joe invited the young people into a moment of silence so as to welcome the Holy Spirit into our gathering and also to inspire what we were going to discuss. Later on, he gave an opportunity to each young adult to share his/ her experience about what young adults really want to talk about starting with Collins Ong’oma.
Collins Ong’oma: He mentioned that when he meets with his fellow young adults, they mostly talk about relationships and jobs. Some of his friends are married and others are discerning about marriage life. Most of those who are discerning about marriage are afraid of getting into marriage or a serious relationship because some are heartbroken from their past relationships hence, they don’t find marriages and long-term relationships have any meaning to them.
On the issue of jobs, he said that when they meet with his friends, they talk about searching for jobs and the challenges they face at their working places. This has enabled them to appreciate what they have and the importance of having a humble beginning.
Meg MacCarthy: She talked about being more open about what she does and her faith because she works in a Catholic parish. She mentioned that Americans are a secular community and a lot of assumptions are made about people who are religious. Meeting someone who is open to the idea of faith will be refreshing because that makes her be more authentic. Keeping the church alive during this time when young people are leaving in high numbers without compromising what makes us Catholic has been an ongoing conversation within her peer group.
Gerald Mang’era: He said that in his peer group they like talking about the role of young people in the church because many of his peers feel sidelined in the church. For example, they don’t get enough opportunity to participate in church activities. Young people want to understand the entire nature of the church.
He also mentioned that his peers like talking about issues surrounding sexuality and marriages.
Redemptah Mutie: She mentioned that they like talking about young people and modernization, leadership and climate change.
Alloys Nyakundi: He said that when he is with other young people they mostly talk about relationships and more particularly sexual relationships. He gave an example of young people who feel condemned by the church because of early pregnancies which lead them into dropping out of school.
Depression is another topic he identified as many young people are not certain about tomorrow, Covid has disrupted their way of life and unstable families.
Unemployment is another big topic because of high unemployment among young people and those who are employed do have enough to support their families.
Brendah Kobusinye: She noted that in her peer group they usually talk about addiction i.e., drug abuse, alcoholism, and masturbation. With her peer group, they try to advise one another on how they can overcome these challenges. It’s difficult to talk with their parents on these topics but feel free to share with their friends.
Juma Derek: He noted that they mostly talk about relationships i.e marriage, music, and football. They also discuss issues around the church for example, how they can make the church more entertaining and welcoming to young people
Jenipher Tumuhaise: She noted that she always wants to find a way of getting out of her parents in order to spend more time with her friends. While with her friends they talk about relationships and climate change.
Staicy Wandiema: She noted that many of her peers like talking about their childhood trauma and bad experiences they had while they were young children because this has affected their relationships with different people.
Also, they want to talk about relationships i.e trying to understand their sexuality because young people who are LGBTQ fear coming out because the society is so unwelcoming to them.
Irene Kariuki: In her peer group, they like to talk about how to maintain pure Christian life while in a romantic relationship because Christianity advocates for sexual purity.
They also have conversations about mental health because some young adults might be going through childhood traumas, rejection, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
Richard Nyasenga: Young women who have got unplanned pregnancies meet to talk about ways they can find their way back to the society because they feel rejected and condemned by the church. Also, they talk about church leaders who work hand in hand with political leaders who have been involved in corruption.
Joseph Healey: Shared his experiences while working with young people in all over the world through his ministry of Small Christian Communities (SCCs). He said that many young people have confessed that SCCs are their support groups in times of difficult times. He also acknowledged that many young people are struggling with boy-girl’s relationships in the world today.
The gathering ended with a closing prayer from Tumuhaise Jenipher from Uganda.
The next gathering will be on 1st September,2022.
ONLINE YOUNG ADULT SEEKERS SMALL CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES AS PART OF THE 2021-2023 SYNODAL PROCESS
PART I -- INTRODUCTION
My name is Alloys Nyakundi, a graduate from Loyola University New Orleans, LA, USA where I got a Masters in Pastoral Studies with a focus on Small Christian Communities from the perspective of young adults because of my passion for leading and promoting Young Adults Small Christian Communities in nine countries of Eastern Africa under the AMECEA Pastoral Department. While doing my undergraduate studies at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya, I gained insight into the needs of Young Adults through the Small Christian Communities for Young Adults that I facilitated at the Christ the Teacher Parish, Kenyatta University.
In 2016 I was introduced to the Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI) by Father Joseph Healey, MM a Maryknoll Priest based in Nairobi, Kenya who has also been my mentor in my journey of faith. During my six years of involvement with CCRI, I realized that most of the members were elderly people, and we had a few Young Adults who would attend from time to time. There was a disconnect between the elderly folks and the young people. At this point we realized that CCRI was not attracting Young Adults, and this was the genesis of the Online Young Adult Seekers Small Christian Communities Gatherings that comprise young people from the four continents.
CCRI recognizes the important role of young people and the current crisis in the Catholic Church where many young people have walked away because they feel unwelcomed and have no sense of belonging. The online platform created by CCRI is one of the ways we are responding to the needs of young people by offering them a safe place to share their concerns and find support for the life issues they face. As an international and diverse group that meets twice a month on Zoom, we are seeking to find our rightful place within the Catholic community. Instead of walking away, we have decided to be present and make our voices heard during this Synodal Process.
Young people are tired of being told that they are the future and instead they want to be recognized and given an opportunity to share their gifts and talents in the church now. They want their voices to be heard and to take part in the decision-making process now.
During the 2021-2023 Synodal Process many people have been searching for ways to attract and involve Young Adult Catholics. In 2016 Father Febian Pikiti, the AMECEA Pastoral Coordinator, conducted a survey about where you find Catholic youth and young adults on Sunday morning in Nairobi, Kenya, the largest city in East Africa. The results: “You do not find them outside of the Catholic Church after mass. You find them on social media.” The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA)’s Research in the USA in 2020-2021 shows that 60% of Catholic Young Adults' Faith Community Activities are outside the parish, many on social media. This is confirmed by our research in Eastern Africa.
So encouraged by CCRI we started an Online SCC specifically for Young Adults.
Image of one of the online gatherings of young adult seekers:
PART II -- PERSONAL TESTIMONIES
Young adults from different parts of the world, for example, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Germany, USA, Mexico and Pakistan have contributed to this document. Here are their personal testimonies:
Redemptah Mutie, Katheka Parish, Machakos Diocese, Kenya
Poor leadership. This has been an incurable illness in my home parish. From time to time there are several misunderstandings arising between the young adults and church elders. Some of the elected leaders have to resign from office just a few days after the election after prolonged fights and misunderstandings. To make it worse the remaining youths reject youth responsibilities and those who are not strong in faith leave the church and find other denominations where things are done differently and they find satisfaction.
Adult and youth perception. Perception in my home parish can be viewed in two ways; youth-adult perception and adult-youth perception. The most common is the adult-youth perception where adults view themselves as the owners of the church. They see young adults as less educated people who need time to grow for them to be entrusted with bigger responsibilities. Some elders pass harsh judgment to the young adults which makes them feel uncomfortable hence, run away from the church. The young adult’s perception arises when they see themselves as modernized while the church elders are less informed because of sticking to the old ways of life. This has created misunderstandings between the elders and young adults.
Modernization and technology. In the 21st century, technology has been of great help to many people globally. However, young adults tend to misuse technology through the overuse of their smartphones. In my home parish, I have witnessed some youths chatting in the midst of Mass. Others just hung around the church compound just to use their phones instead of listening to Mass. Another issue closely associated with modernization is dressing. This has been an ill ailment in my home parish. Some church elders criticize some kinds of dress codes, especially among ladies in that short dresses and trousers are not fit clothes to wear in the church. This has arisen fights which have resulted in some youths going to other denominations where they are not questioned.
Collins Ong’oma, St. Martin of Tours Sultan Hamud Parish, Ngong Diocese, Kenya
Most young people shun away from the church because they feel no one cares about their needs. If the church and its leadership, for instance, engage young people left, right, and center they feel needed, wanted, and appreciated, and find it a home away from home but when that is lacking, they find comfort elsewhere.
Sometimes the church is too demanding to the young people. This occurs when young people are forced to part with some good cash for them to be considered true members and friends of the church. A young person May be struggling to make ends meet but if things don't work, they end up not being closer to the church so as not to be considered failures.
The injustice nature of some religious men. Working in and for the church sometimes make some young people realize that the church is like a military institution. You mess up once and you're knocked out without even second thoughts. At times if you're not a friend to the man in a collar they end up sacking you or looking for a way of getting rid of you. Such experiences make young people despise them making it impossible to even listen to their hypocritical sermons.
Irene Kariuki, St. Joseph Mutunguru Parish, Nairobi Archdiocese, Kenya
Seated in the bus, going home after work, I was nostalgic about the happy moments I had when I was a young girl and a member of Pontifical Missionary Childhood (PMC) in my home parish. My Parish is part of the Archdiocese of Nairobi which is the Capital City of Kenya. Growing up, everyone dreamt of visiting the capital city, and occasionally we would an opportunity to visit the city through the PMC events that were organized by the Archdiocese of Nairobi. We would have a colorful mass presided over by the Cardinal. We would dress in beautiful PMC uniforms and we would dance during the processions. We always went back home excited and happy, and we lived for such moments.
When I joined high school, the connection that I had with my home parish events changed. All of a sudden, there were no longer events to attend. Very little was organized for the young adults unlike when we were in PMC. I went to a boarding high school, so I'd only attend my home church during the holidays. I slowly stopped attending Small Christian Communities (SCCs) gatherings with my parents because teenagers would no longer tag along with their parents to church gatherings. Talking with my friends, I realized that young adults felt uncomfortable sharing in SCCs with their parents because they would fear expressing themselves fully while with their parents.
It will be better if young adults are encouraged to have SCCs of their own where they will have meaningful gatherings that will capture their attention and sparkle a zeal to be in touch with their faith and spirituality. Clearly, this is lacking in my local parish because I haven't seen any significant effort by our leadership to encourage young adults to be part of the SCCs. It is through SCCs for the young adults that the church will get to understand the challenges young people are going through.
The current generation has evolved; the interests of young adults are diverse and have shifted. A good number of the young people nowadays cannot relate to the church teachings. There is a gap when it comes to matters that concern young adults during church readings and the homilies shared, and this may leave them with unresolved questions or feel unseen. They yearn to have homilies that focus on matters concerning love and relationships, work, success in life, studies, leadership, how to overcome life's challenges, and how to get closer to God. The church can also organize seminars that touch on these crucial matters which the priests might miss to talk about when giving homilies.
In my local parish young adults are not involved in church leadership and they are excluded from the decision-making table. This makes them feel isolated and find the decision made to be exclusive because the leaders did not ask for their input. I’d recommend that the church leaders recognize the special gifts we young adults bring to the church by involving young people in church leadership. One young woman and young man can be identified to sit on the Parish Pastoral Council to be the voice for other young adults in the church.
Ainembabazi Rabecca, Kyamugabo Parish, Mbarara Diocese, Uganda
Lack of motivation from bad church leaders: In some churches, there are pastors who are good at preaching but do contrary to what they preach. Many young adults love being inspired by what the Pastors do because they see them as their role models unfortunately, stories come out of the Pastors and church leaders as among the people who involve themselves with prostitution, witchcraft, and adultery. This discourages young adults from going to church due to loss of trust in the church leaders and pastors. Also, there are some church leaders who claim to do healing and, counseling services to young adults but instead of helping them, they take advantage of their privacy to make sexual advances on young women. This is so common in churches where men believe that they dominate women and believe that women are objects for entertainment and that they should always take commands from men without questioning.
Forced marriages. Most of the parents who did not go to school do not see the value of giving young women an opportunity to study. They think that young women shouldn’t go to school and instead, they look for men to marry them so that they can get the dowry. They marry off their girls at an early age of 13 years. Some parents force their children into marriage to wealthy men who are far older than their girls so as to get financial help from the wealthy man to pay off their debts and support their daily life. Some young girls who have been forced into marriage at a young age feel ashamed to go to church because people might talk ill about them. They also fear associating with other young people because they see themselves as failures and some parents do not want to see them associating with their children because they think that they may influence their children negatively. This makes the young women live in isolation, and loneliness while enduring shame and suffering.
The church has done less to support the young women in my parish and some of them face a lot of domestic violence in their forced marriages. Many young adults have committed suicide because they can no longer hold on to the domestic violence they face in their forced marriages.
Juma Derek, Kamukuzi Parish, Ankole Diocese, Uganda
Bad examples portrayed by church leaders for example priests involving themselves with sexual scandals with women yet they have taken vows of celibacy make young adults lose trust in the church leaders. Young adults look to the church leaders as role models and as people who set the pace on what to do. They should lead by example since young people don’t trust what the leaders tell them because of their unfaithfulness to the vows they took. As young people, we also feel okay engaging in such activities since the religious leaders are also engaging in such acts. This has led many young people to walk away from the church because they don’t see any difference between the people who are Christians and the non-Christians.
The Generation Gap where most pastors in Uganda are elderly and they don’t relate to the issues the current generation is facing. Young adults are very active on social media and the pastors should look for positive ways of evangelizing to the young adults instead of condemning them from using social media. Some elderly pastors give homilies that young adults do not connect with or refer to the examples of the old ways of life. Young people get excited with pastors who are current and embrace the use of examples on issues that are affecting them. Also, elderly pastors easily condemn the new fashion of young people something that makes young people uncomfortable because they don’t want to go to church to get condemnation but to be accepted and loved.
Unemployment after college has led many young adults to severe poverty without no proper ways of taking care of themselves and their families. Some young adults are scared of starting families because they are not certain how they are going to provide for their families. Nowadays almost every Sunday there are so many fundraisings after mass and this has turned many young people away because they find it shameful when they are unable to raise some money when they are expected to give something. Those who don’t have money to give choose to stay away from church because they don’t want to go through the shame of not giving any money.
Ashiknaz Khokhar, Sahiwah Parish, Faisalabad Diocese, Pakistan
The Active Youth Group is a movement of Catholic Youth in Sahiwal Parish which is part of the Faisalabad Diocese of Pakistan. Our Bishop's name is Indias Rehmat and our parish is coordinated by the Dominicans. We founded Active Youth Group in 2005 with the vision to guide and lead the youth of the parish in social and spiritual activities. We are actively serving in the parish with a lot of challenges to which faced by religious and laity.
There is a huge gap between the Catholic Bishops and young adults because it's difficult to access bishops to plan a meeting. To access a bishop in my home diocese you have to get permission or recommendation from the parish priest who sometimes recommends people whom he feels don't threaten his work. Bishops and priests live like kings and they don't have an actual understanding of real issues facing young people. They only want young adults when they want to fundraise money for various projects that they want to do but they do not have an active ministry with a focus on young adults.
People's opinions should be respected in the parish and bishops should inquire from time to time about the progress of each parish through the Parish Pastoral Council. Unfortunately, this is not happening anywhere in my diocese. The church likes to keep people who are always questioning far away from the church decision-making council to deny them an opportunity to raise their concerns. Young women and men should be given an opportunity to sit at the decision-making table because we are all equal before the eyes of the almighty God. Bishops and Priests should not feel threatened by people who disagree with them but take that as a special gift and a call to find a common ground through listening to the Holy Spirit.
Meg McCarthy and Tess Thapalia, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany Diocese, New York, USA
This report has been written by Meg McCarthy and Tess Thapalia, two young women who work as lay ministers for the Church of St. Vincent de Paul in Albany, NY. Meg is the leader of the Young Adult Ministry, and Tess is involved with the Pastoral Council and the LGBTQ Alliance.
Both of us were raised Catholic and have continued to practice our faith in and through young adulthood. One of the biggest struggles for young adults in our parish is that our diocese, as well as the Catholic Church in the United States overall, is very conservative, and has politicized our faith in many spaces. Many young adults struggle to come back after Confirmation or college when they walk into what they’re hoping will be a welcoming group and find people who are more concerned about how often you attend Holy Hour than how well you follow Jesus’s teachings.
Our parish focuses strongly on the concept of Courageous Hospitality and the seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching that many young adults find very attractive in a faith environment. We focus on the actions and activities that carry out the teachings of Jesus that many of our young adults have said makes them feel closer to God and their faith. One parishioner remarked that they appreciated our emphasis on “social justice over the performance of piety.”
Some of our young adults feel very isolated in their faith. When faith is made into a political statement, it stops being personal and becomes social in ways that can make many young adults uncomfortable, especially if the political statement being made is one that they themself do not agree with. This isolation can be a large factor in young adults leaving the Catholic Church. Many young adults in our parish feel that their religion is intensely personal, and are uncomfortable with the tendency of the Catholic Church in the United States to insert itself into politics.
We know that this is not the challenge facing young Catholics in many other places, but in the United States, we have both experienced how the burgeoning politicization of the Catholic faith has driven many of our peers away from the Church.
Part III -- ACTIVITIES IN OUR FORTNIGHT ONLINE SCC GATHERINGS
Case Study No. 1: In our online session on Thursday, 4 August, 2022, the facilitator asked the young adults: “Imagine if one day you get an opportunity to have a meeting with Pope Francis. What burning issue/issues will you raise on behalf of the young adults you work with? What are the changes you have always wanted to see in the church that you would recommend to him? Remember this is a lifetime opportunity that comes once. It was fascinating to see the different responses that the young adults gave and I have captured them as below:
Meg McCarthy, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany Diocese, USA
The number of men entering the seminary has been steadily declining for the past few decades in the US and many other countries throughout the world. We must take an honest look at the priesthood and decide what our church can do to make sure that the sacraments continue on for future generations. Right now, many churches don’t have a priest to say Mass on Sundays. Some parishes go weeks or more without receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion. The issues we would like to raise are two interconnected issues: Married Priests and Women’s Ordinations.
The celibacy of priests did not become a requirement of ordination until the medieval period. There are many other Christian Denominations (some of which are in communion with Rome) that allow for married priests. There are young men in our community that greatly considered the priesthood but choose married life instead and have made it clear that if they could do both they would. Why should these men be denied the joys of family and fatherhood? What makes a husband or father less able to serve the lord? God himself was a father.
The women of the church have worked hard for millennia to keep the institution running. Now more than ever churches, schools and missions are being run by women, both lay and religious. Women in our world are finding greater opportunities and are working closer to overall equality. We tell our young girls that they can be anything EXCEPT a priest. When our students preparing for Holy Communion learn l about the sacraments there is always uproar when they get to Holy Orders. They all become very upset at the fact that women are barred from fully participating in the church. We know that there were many women among the disciples. That women were the first to receive the news of the resurrection and preach it to the rest. Why now 2,000 years later do we deem them unworthy or unfit?
Phidelis Wamalwa, Christkonigkirche-Eppelheim Parish, Freiburg im Breisgau Diocese, Germany
Young people don’t feel appreciated in the church because they are not given major roles like leadership positions. Leadership is key because young people are embraced elsewhere and not in the church. Young people are there to listen to the clergy and leaders. This easily prompt young people to join protest groups because they feel welcomed and listened to by those groups.
Ashik Khokhar, Sahiwah Parish, Faisalabad Diocese, Pakistan.
The church should accept the new way of life by becoming a listening and inclusive church at the same time supporting women’s rights. The lay leaders should be involved in decision making process so that they appreciate the sense of community in the church.
Staicy Wandiema, St. Joseph Kahawa Sukari Parish, Nairobi Archdiocese, Kenya
The church is straightforward with matters of religion but silent on issues relating with humanity for example women rights, plight of refugees and hunger.
Alloys Nyakundi, Nyansiongo Parish, Kisii Diocese, Kenya
The church should be more listening than telling people what they should do before understanding where they are coming from. Also, let all people get equal space in the table of making decisions instead of having a few people mostly the clergy making decisions on behalf of the Christian communities.
Gerald Mang’era, St. Mary’s Nyamaharaga Parish, Homabay Diocese, Kenya
Trust has been diminishing between the young adults and the church because of lack of clarity on issues to do with abortion, LGBTQ and the economy. I would also love to hear what the Pope will say about Tribalism in Kenya where people in the Catholic church are divided along the tribal line even though they belong to the same church. Lastly, the church should guide young people on how to balance the political life, Christian life and their personal life.
Collins Ongoma, St. Martin of Tours Sultan Hamud Parish, Ngong Diocese, Kenya
Some young people see priests as animals and terrible people instead of spiritual guiders because of the bad experiences they have gone through under their watch, for example, sexual abuse and harsh punishments given to the young people whenever they make mistakes. Also, I raise the issue of young people who have grown in the Catholic church and have embraced the Small Christian Communities and the Eucharist but disappear from church after they get married. Where do they go?
Irene Kariuki, St. Joseph Mutunguru Parish, Nairobi Archdiocese, Kenya
What actions has the church taken on the issues of mental health, family and unemployment among young people because these are issues that are making them lose their faith. I’d also encourage Pope Francis to encourage community prayer not only during mass and also encourage each church to have gatherings that actively involve young people.
Joseph Healey, Maryknoll Society, St. Austin Parish, Nairobi Archdiocese, Kenya
The Eucharist famine/hunger is now an emerging issue in the Catholic Church worldwide for different reasons. What pastoral solutions are you suggesting or proposing so that many more people in the world can receive communion?
Redemptah Mutie, Katheka Parish, Machakos Diocese, Kenya
Young women who give birth before marriage should not be denied the Eucharist and segregated from young adult activities but instead be welcomed. They do not get pregnant by themselves and they have sad stories behind their pregnancies which someone should listen to. The church should have activities that are meant to these young women so as to feel part of the church community.
Jenipher Tumuhaise, Rwenyanga Parish, Mbarara Diocese, Uganda
There should be equality between the priests and nuns more so on the educational matters because all are called by God and to serve God regardless of their gender. Nuns should also get equal opportunities to preach like the Priests. The Anglican church of Uganda has done it so well in that men and women get an opportunity to preach and this has attracted so many young people.
Case Study No. 2: At the second online encounter of the Online Young Adult Seekers Small Christian Community on Thursday, 23 June 2022 participants were asked to come with an image of Jesus Christ that comes to their mind or reflects the work that they do. Each person had three minutes to interpret the image and how that image reflects him or her. Here are the responses:
Ashik: Shared that he visualizes Jesus as a farmer who provides food, water, and shelter for his people.
Collins: Allegorically compared Jesus with a ‘Donkey’ that despite how the ‘load of salvation’ was, he never bolted out but persevered it all.
Joshua: Savior because Jesus sacrificed his life for our sake.
Becky: Jesus is her savior, protector, and guide in her life.
Alloys: Considers Jesus as a sister. Her three sisters played an important role in his life and gave him the accompaniment when he had ups and downs with life.
Staicy: Considers Jesus as an unconditional friend. She loves having a conversation with Jesus as a friend.
Gerald: Sees Jesus as a Safari-park guide. At the park is where Jesus Christ lives while the safari is the journey of life young people are making.
Joseph: Considers Jesus as the Eldest Brother and Chief Intercessor that are two images in Scripture and are widely used by the Sukuma people in Tanzania.
Summary: The above activity confirms that young people might not like the Institutional Catholic Church but they accept and like Jesus Christ.
PART IV: CHALLENGES
- Financial support: The young seekers meet on zoom every fortnight and they have to be supported with money for the internet because majority of them are not employed or have low salaries.
- Internet connectivity: Some young people, especially from the Global South countries, encounter poor internet coverage during the gatherings and sometimes it takes long for them to find a good place with strong internet connectivity.
- Language barrier: It has been difficult to reach young people from other parts of the world because of language. In our online gatherings we use English which is widely spoken but there are some young people from some countries who don’t speak English such as Spanish-speaking young people in Mexico.
PART V: DEFINITION OF TERMS
ZOOM – It’s a social media application that enables people to interact online/virtually/digitally when they are not able to meet in person. The app is able to host small, medium and large gatherings with minimal interruptions. Also, it allows people to keep in touch/meet anytime they want.
Seekers – This describes people who are looking for or trying to find something. CCRI decided to use this word to describe Young Adults who are always searching.
PART VI: SUMMARY
In summary, using the “See, Discern and Act” reflection method, CCRI members are committed to embracing community life in our local regions of the world. When we see social injustice issues both within and outside of the Institutional Catholic Church, we will stand in solidarity with those being violated, thereby living the Gospel values of Jesus Christ.
Recognizing in our synodal gatherings that we have different viewpoints within our communities, we are committed to bridging the gap among these traditionalists, middle of the road Catholics, and progressives. In Eastern Africa Small Christian Communities provide equal airtime for everyone during the regular gatherings. The key to this working well is having the proper training for Small Christian Communities Young Adult members where they learn how to disagree with respect and not demean other Young Adults’ views (“disagreeing with love”). Facilitators also learn needed skills through the continuous training that is conducted by the Eastern Africa Small Christian Communities Training Team.
During this 2021-2023 Synodal Process we are committed to answering to the call of Pope Francis that the Catholic Church should create a safe space for listening to young people. The dynamics in life are changing so quickly and that’s why things that used to work a decade ago are not working with the current generation. The church should be creative in order to accommodate the new ways of life. This is the rationale behind our Online Young Adult Seekers Small Christian Communities Gatherings.
Alloys Nyakundi – Facilitator, Online Young Adult Seekers Small Christian Communities
Member -- Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI)
10 August, 2022
GATHERING HELD ON THURSDAY 21ST JULY 2022 FROM 6-7PM EAST AFRICA TIME.
The Online Young Small Christian Community gathering was held on Thursday 21st July 2022 from 6-7 pm East Africa Time. It began with a word of prayer from the team from Pakistan led by one of the girls. Members had a brief introduction to familiarize themselves with our guest speaker for the day.
The session incorporated questions from members followed by a very rich sharing from Irene on her spiritual journey. Irene Kariuki is a born-again Christian living in Nairobi, Kenya. A fourth born in a family of 6, four brothers and a sister. She fellowships at a church called The Living Word Gospel Church. Her father is a Staunch Catholic while her mother became a Catholic by virtue of marriage. She was baptized while still young and given the name Irene. She attended catechesis classes and was enriched with the Catholic doctrines learning more about the Catholic faith enabled her to grow up being an obedient child yearning to learn more about God and follow His teachings.
Something striking that she recalls was when she was about to undertake her catechesis exams when the priest asked her the difference between the sacrament of Eucharist and ugali (corn flour meal- a staple food in Kenya) to test whether she was ready to be given the sacrament of Eucharist or not, and innocently since she didn’t know the difference she said, “Ugali is cooked but the Eucharist is baked by the religious sisters’ because that’s what she used to hear.” But after she told her mum the question she was asked the mum told her that’s not the case but it is because ugali is just food for the physical body while the Eucharist is food for the spiritual body.
Another question that the priest asked her was, “what if she gets to a place and she neglects the sacrament of the Eucharist what would happen? she told him that she never thought she would ever do that because she knew the only thing that can separate her from the sacrament of the Eucharist is maybe sin and staying from going for the sacrament of confession. She was certain that she wouldn’t neglect the sacrament of Eucharist.
She received the sacrament of confirmation while in high school and was named Adeline but after leaving the catholic church her friends were curious to know whether she would abandon her confirmation name, but the answer was no because she still holds the name very dearly to herself and it’s part of who she is.
She has been a staunch Catholic for the better part of her life for instance; in high school; she was a leader of the Catholic action group, a member of Young Catholic Students, a choir member, and a mass server. This laid a good foundation for her journey of faith. Later, she got admitted to Kenyatta University where she joined the acolyte group that assist the priest during mass in her first week, after some time she joined another group called guidance and counseling where she served as the parish representative for the group and St. Perpetual and Felicity Small Christian Community. These were moments when she was very active in the catholic church, learning a lot thus enabling her to discover herself better.
Now to the elephant in the room, the reason as to why she decided to leave the catholic church and joined another denomination was spearheaded by the transitions in her life. There are a lot of things that happened in her life that informed her decision since 2019 to 2021 but in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic when many people were living in isolation, she got an opportunity to meditate on her life and it’s during this time she made up her mind to shift from the Catholic Church to another denomination.
In 2018 she got an opportunity to become the vice Chairperson of the Kenyatta University Catholic Church, but she declined the position because she felt inadequate and had a premonition that a time will come when she would leave the church. She started feeling the thirst and an urge to get closer to God to the extent of going for confession within two weeks whenever she felt she had done something inadequate. She could attend daily masses that gave her an opportunity to meditate especially after receiving the Holy Eucharist because that’s the only time she could speak to God but that time wasn’t adequate. Remaining behind after the final blessing was still an option but she couldn’t take long because her friends were awaiting her outside.
The environment in the church was so tranquil but the time she could spend there was minimal. She loves praising and worshipping and she missed such moments because even attending the Small Christian Community meetings, time was really minimal for such activities. She was thirsty for the word of God, and she felt like the time scheduled for bible reading and reflection could not allow her to preach which is something she felt she was capable of doing bearing in mind that she could visualize herself being a pastor at some point.
In her earlier life, she discerned to be a religious sister but in 2020 losing her aunt, a nun, who journeyed with her in shaping her spiritual life really made her question if that’s what she wanted, and later she decided not to. It got to a point when she could prefer to attend Christian Union fellowship for protestants rather than attending holy mass due to their attractive nature that enabled her to praise, worship, and listen to the word of God making her feel fulfilled. She also got a platform to preach and a space to proclaim her faith. She ascertained that her decision to change denomination was independent and it came after discernment and seeking inside and outside help.
Her presentation answered the question that the members had and the curiosity to understand how someone may wake up and decide to change denomination. It was an encouraging moment for the members and what stood out was the essence of learning the catholic doctrines, the power to yearn for an understanding of the scriptures, and the essence of accompaniment in our lives.
The gathering ended with a word of prayer from the Pakistanian team
Our next session will be on 4th August, 2022.