Immaculate Conception Hawthorn parish priest Father Des Dwyer SJ is leading a research project looking into the engagement of youth in church life.
In conjunction with the Boroondara Deanery, the study is being conducted by Australian Catholic University and Monash University, and aims to find solutions to the decline of youth involvement in the church.
Fr Dwyer says he is hoping to find ways to increase involvement in ministry among young people.
‘We have commissioned the universities (ACU and Monash) to research for us what's actually going on in youth ministry in Victoria', Fr. Dwyer said. ‘We have a view to develop a model, which would be suitable in bringing the ministry of Catholic secondary schools, and parishes closer together.'
Fr Dwyer believes Catholic schools are providing young people with opportunities to foster their faith, but rues their lack of connection with parishes.
‘They are basically not connected with the church. That seems to me, a fairly futile model', he notes.
Previous research shows there is a disturbing number of young people who are not going to Mass or becoming involved in broader parish life.
‘We have a conspicuous absence of youth in parish life from the ages of roughly 15 through to 30. We have them, but not in anywhere near the numbers of other age groups', Fr. Dwyer said.
‘We need to be more creative in bringing these different expressions of the church's ministry together.'
Fr Dwyer has experience working with young people, serving as a teacher in Sydney for 26 years in Jesuit schools. He has also acted as Jesuit Novice Master.
‘We would like to involve young adults in the life of the church. Otherwise they finish up victims of consumerism, materialism, and secularism. That is not going to give them life or happiness', Fr Dwyer said.
‘We need to provide something that meets the needs of the age group, and also keeps them connected to the church.'
Fr Dwyer is adamant that part of the solution is to develop connections, as well as providing a suitable way for faith to be maintained.
‘Young people need to have a community in which to develop friendships among themselves within the context of the church. This involves some sort of apostolic outreach in terms of expression of their faith, some form of discipleship.'
He hopes that as part of the emerging model, a youth worker will be employed to oversee the interaction between the parishes and the schools.
‘We are currently drawing up a job description, with a view to employing a youth minister. We plan to base this person in the schools (including Xavier and Genazzano), while working with the local parishes, Kew and Hawthorn', Fr Dwyer explained.
‘We are looking for someone in the 15-30 age group. It might be a graduate with an interest in developing something in this area, or it might be a student of Australian Catholic University who would take on the job part-time.'
For more information call (03) 8862 4022 or (03) 8862 4000.
By Anthony Laughton