When Christ the Lord came and dwelt among us in the flesh as the mystery of the Incarnation teaches, humanity inherited something that can never be dissociated from it until the end of time. As a growing young person in the parish, the researcher was actively involved in the parish life and activities as a member of the Catholic Youth Organisation, Nigeria (C.Y.O.N.) in Ibadan Archdiocese. With a short-term as a member that lasted not more than six months, he was called and elected to the administrative affairs of the group.
From this height, he was able to get a bite of the coordinating work of bringing youths together to get involved in the life of the parish. The reason as the elders used to say is that “youth are the leaders of tomorrow.” However, with the passage of events and development of ideas, this maxim has shifted in meaning. Its expression also now reflects, “Youth are the leaders of today, for tomorrow starts today.”
This inspiration for the present seminar tries to underscore the importance of youth in the life and mission of the Church in Africa with experiences from Nigeria. The motivation spurs him to reflect that if youth are the leaders of today and if tomorrow starts today, then; it is no gain-saying that the paradigm offered by John Paul II in Ecclesia De Eucharistia, 35 (EDE) offer some helpful analogy in examining the roles of CYON in the life and mission of the Church. If the Church draws her life from the Eucharist, who builds up the Church of Christ, then the roles of the youth point inevitably to its continued importance to the life and mission of the Church.
Accruing from the oft-cited adage, it has become urgent for the Church to prepare youth not only for tomorrow but for today as well. For the way today is lived will eventually lead into the tomorrow of their lives. If they are able to handle their lives today in the context of the what the Eucharist is in relation to the Church, the youth stand a better privilege of harnessing the reflection of today for leading themselves into their tomorrow.
This seminar therefore has the following aims to achieve. To create awareness among youth groups, parents, teachers and civil society the importance of youth energies and initiatives in redefining and rebuilding a new and better society in the world today. The significance of this study is in its re-appreciation of enduring values not only for C.Y.O.N youth but for other youth groups and for parents as it has been for the Church. All the youth constitute a top priority in the Church’s mission of salvation of souls.
This study has the following sub-sections. The introduction lays open the preliminaries of this intervention. The writer examines John Paul II’s 2003 Encyclical Letter on the Eucharist in its relationship to the Church. This teaching helps us to understand the roles of C.Y.O.N. in the life and mission of the Church in Ibadan Archdiocese and Nigeria as a whole.
What follows is a treatment of the roles of C.Y.O.N. in life and mission of the Church in Ibadan. Afterwards, a theology of inculturation of mission and dialogue is attempted in relation to the study. An attempt towards a concluding evaluation is made.
Ecclesia De Eucharistia and the African Church of Today
The African religious topography is laced with persons and places of adherents of religions, especially Christianity, Islam, and African Traditional Religions (ATR). It is said that the blood that flows through the veins of a typical African is very much religious. Uzoma Nwosi attests to the continental nature of this religiosity “because in the whole continent there are religious practices that are widespread in almost every culture.” When it comes to religious worship, Idowu further adds that the living God for the African is the real cohesive factor upon which everything hinges.
The deep religiosity of the African nay the Nigerian mentality contributes to the subsequent understanding of the teaching of John Paul II in Ecclesial de Eucharistia. However, it must be noted that the only difference, and a fundamental one, is the polytheism, which traditional religions in Africa, nay Nigerians express. However, with the advent of Christianity and its warm acceptance today many Africans and Nigerians live more or less with the monotheistic understand of the Christian religion.
The Apostolic Letter of John Paul II, EDE was given on 17 April 2003. Its theme is the Eucharist and its relationship to the Church. There are lights and shadows regarding this theme. Eucharist is a cause among other positive signs for which to praise and thank God for being a gift to the Church beyond being an injunction of the Lord. Among the shadows or abuses, he referred to is almost complete abandonment of the practice of Eucharistic adoration. Another is a reductive understanding of the mystery of the Eucharist. The Letter hopes to address all of this and eventually banish the dark clouds of unacceptable doctrine and practices, so that the Eucharist will continue to shine forth in all its radiant mystery.
The Letter contains 62 articles and it is divided into six chapters with an introduction and conclusion. The introduction affirms that the Church draws her life from the Eucharist and the Eucharist builds up the church. Chapter one treats the Eucharist as a mystery of faith, handed to the Church by Christ the Lord and a sacrificial memorial for the Church to continually offer until the Lord comes. Chapter two examines the Eucharist as the builder of the Church from the teachings of Vatican II Council its centrality in the process of this growth. In its celebration and worship, the process of the Church’s growth is realised.
Chapter three looks at the communion between apostolic succession of Bishops, priests and the faithful joins in the celebration of the Eucharist by virtue of their royal priesthood. Chapter four takes up and continues this sub-theme of communion under the Eucharist and Ecclesial communion as the extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 1985 taught about “ecclesial communion.” It recommends that this must be promoted in both a legitimate celebration of the Eucharist and true participation in it.
Chapter five strictly examines the dignity of the Eucharistic celebration from synoptic accounts of the gospel. This Eucharistic dignity, he says has shaped the Church and her spirituality. By adaptation therefore, to the changing conditions of time and place, the Eucharist offers sustenance not only to individuals but to entire peoples, and shapes cultures through Christianity. Pastors must therefore be alive to liturgical reforms and engage in proper adaptation to provide a witness to and a service of communion. Chapter six seats us down at the school of Mary, “woman of the Eucharist.” Mary stands out in the relationship between the Church and the Eucharist, if we are to rediscover its profound richness. This is because Mary, throughout her life at Christ’s side and not only on Calvary, made her own the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist.
In the conclusion, John Paul II calls the entire Church, at the dawn of the third millennium, as children of the Church to renew with enthusiasm the journey of Christian living. With the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas on the Eucharist, he exhorts us to turn in hope to the contemplation of that goal to which our hearts aspire in their thirst for joy and peace: “…Come then, good Shepherd, bread divine; still show to us thy mercy sign…So we may see they glories shine in fields of immortality…”
Ecclesia de Eucharistia and Communion
The article chosen for this study is article 35, which treats the issue of communion. It specifically speaks of “the profound relationship between the invisible and the visible elements of the ecclesial communion” of the Church “as the sacrament of salvation” in relation to the Eucharist. The underlining factor here is the reality of communion in the celebration of the Eucharist on one hand, and on the other hand, communion that exists in a form of expression of “bond of communion” in the two elements.
The invisible dimension of the Church includes the communion of the Father and the Son, through the working of the Holy Spirit. This invisible dimension is vital in making the visible dimension realises its goal in the legitimate celebration of the Eucharist and participation in it. The profound communion being touted proceeds fundamentally from the Blessed Trinity.
The visible dimension of the sacrament is an expression of the existing bond of communion between the visible and invisible dimensions. In addition, the celebration of the Eucharist does not begin this communion. Rather, it presupposes it already presence as existing and seeks to consolidate it and bring it to perfection. The sacrament subsequently expresses this communion bond, which, in Christ and through the working of the Holy Spirit unites us to the Father and among ourselves. Likewise in this visible dimension which entails the teaching of bishops and priests in the sacraments and in the Church. This would enable the faithful participate in, and be nourished by it. What stands out in all this is that an intrinsic requirement is that should the Eucharist be celebrated in communion, specifically the various bonds of that communion must be maintained.
For the youth organisation of Africa especially, Nigeria, their dignity is in no doubt first as laypersons in the Church. Through them like a path, the Church sees herself into the future. In the youth, the Church becomes young again, fresh to undertake the missionary work of the redeemer, Christ Jesus, until the end of time when he shall come again to repay each one according to the works of his/her hands. The youth therefore are indispensable for the life and mission of the Church.
Furthermore, the youth must listen always to the Pastors of the Church. The apostolicity of the Church in relation to article 35 of EDE the writer reveals the authority of the Shepherds of Christ’s Church. Therefore, the young people can be certain of proper guidance in her teachings and pastoral directives meant for the good of the Church in general and the youth in particular.
The C.Y.O.N. and the Mission and Life of the Church
What this has for the role C.Y.O.N. in the life and mission of the Church cannot be over-emphasised. Such a role is based on the analogy drawn from the profound bond of communion that exists between the celebration of the Eucharist and the two elements, visible and invisible, dimension of the Church.
For Francis Arinze “visible communion with the Church ‘entails communion in the teaching of the apostles, in the sacraments, and in the Church’s hierarchical order” (35). Raymond Burke explains this to mean, “accepting the Church’s sacraments, and being subject to its governance. In short, being a faithful Catholic.” Francis Arinze further describes it as “the do-it-yourself Mass is ended” in an interview, he granted in anticipation of the document with Inside the Vatican.
Based on the status of their members, there are three kinds of associations of the Christian faithful. These include: (1) associations of clergy, (2) associations of laity, or (3) associations of clergy and laity. For example, the Pontifical Council for the Laity is responsible for associations of the laity. The congregation for the clergy is responsible for associations of the clergy and associations of the clergy and laity. However, the congregation for the clergy must reach agreement with the Council for the Laity on the apostolic activities of associations comprising both clergy and laity. There are some exceptions to this criterion. The congregation for the evangelization of peoples has competency over all associations dedicated exclusively to cooperating with the missions. The congregation for religious and secular Institutes has competency over associations founded by members of religious institutes.
The C.Y.O.N. was established by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) in Nigeria as an arm of the lay ministry. This is an umbrella organisation which brings together all Catholic young people (male and female) under the age bracket of 15 – 35 years of age. The objectives included what, among private associations is described as the two bases for determining less fundamental kinds of associations. These are acknowledgement by ecclesiastical authority and juridic status.
Acknowledgement by ecclesiastical authority determines three kinds of private associations: (1) those praised or recommended by ecclesiastical authority, (2) those merely recognized by that authority. Ecclesiastical authority praises or recommends associations to certify accord between their ends and the goals of the Church. The CYON falls under the first category. It was founded as a private association in the Church but with universal goals extending beyond the particular Church.
Roles of the C.Y.O.N. in the Life and Mission of the Church
The following are the roles or the importance of the C.Y.O.N. in the life and mission of the Church in Ibadan. The youth serve as a body to coordinate other youth organisations at parish, deanery, and archdiocesan, provincial as well as national levels. This coordination helps everyone to be on the same page. That is, unity of faith and witness is assured among all. This unity is analogous to the unity that marks the feature of the Church of Christ. They thus represent great potential for the Church and society in general. Their obedience and willingness in readily doing the Church’s bidding expresses truly that the Church sees her own path towards the future in the youth.
They serve as family for all young people in order to have self-identity and self-belonging to the group. The young people form a segment of the laity. In African culture as in other cultures, they form a group wherein one of the three passage rites is celebrated. They become a social close unit apart from being fundamentally, a spiritual organisation. This helps to organise the census of a particular parish or diocese. From there, the needs and challenges facing them are easily identified and solutions to them are not difficult to resolve.
They are primarily an association of the lay faithful created by the Church to serve in the mission of the Church. They help to build up the Church in their social milieu when they use their God-given gifts, time, and treasure to impress the spirit of the Gospel into the world and thought-pattern of their peers.
They are to form and inform youth within their domains in order to prepare them to become leaders in their own movements in such a way that they become witnesses of Christ and evangelisers to their peers. Today’s youth in the African continent and Nigeria as all over the world is compliant with modern means of communications and technology. These social media represent what Joseph Oladejo Faniran calls the third stage in the shifts in media transfer of messages today. This shift moves from between oral to written/printed, from printed to broadcast, and now from broadcast to digital means of communication. The youth are very much at home with this third shift, which opens a new appreciation of communication, which young people are exploiting it even for the proclamation of the gospel.
On Effects of Communion in the Role of C.Y.O.N. in the Church
Let us quickly look at the implications of the profound communion that exists between the Eucharist in relationship to the Church for the C.Y.O.N. and their role in the Church. It must be stated here that what is being studied is not to say that the fundamental link between the Eucharist and the Church is not on the same level as the relationship of C.Y.O.N. to the Church. What is sought here is to draw some lessons from this “profound communion” for the youth as their play their role in the life and mission of the Church, local and universal.
Having cleared the seeming fog, the empowerment of youth in the processes of Church life, especially at the parish level should enjoy considerable attention and investment. Many a youth today are mere Church speculators or observers. They are there while the elders do virtually everything. The youth are sometimes remembered at harvest periods in order to carry the canopies, chairs and tables. There is need to give them more space to be youth in the daily events and activities of the parish. They are irreplaceable. With their presence, so much can be invested in the task of evangelisation of their peers in the out-stations, thereby forming new communities for the parish of the near future.
One straight implication of the profound communion between the Eucharist in relationship to the Church is seen in the interconnectedness of the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. What is heard in the proclamation of the Word becomes a living, active life in us in the Body and Blood of Christ. The youth must not only hear from the Church as from a caring mother but must also take to heart and put into practice the age-old, ever renewing experiences needed to grow graceful.
Thirdly, programs targeted at youth should include them at all levels of conception, decision and decision as well as review. Many youth programs today that are geared towards youth empowerment, emancipation, upgrade and all of that do not include the recipients at all. What obtains is that such wonderful, sometimes well-intended programs are like packaged items without considering the age, mentality, receptivity of the end-users. Consequently, they become moribund and recycled with no appreciable results. Rather, such programs should meet the youth where they are, answering their most important challenges they are facing. Issues like substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy, low self-esteem, urbanisation, and globalisation.
This seminar attempted to look at the mysterious relationship of the Eucharist to the Church while drawing an analogy for what the importance of the C.Y.O.N. to the life and mission of the Church can be for today’s youth in the face of moral and doctrinal relativism, indifferentism, and monopoly of the so-called free market which capitalism epitomises. The global effects of economic recession is a lingering crisis that further expresses the doctrine of materialism and capitalism.
However, with the teaching and several interventions of Benedict XVI, the solution to the economic crisis lies in a moral education in values contrary to our age of technological mentality. This has a relation to the importance of the C.Y.O.N. in the life and mission of the Church as he calls on them as the solution to the crisis in educating the young people in justice, peace, and reconciliation.