With a focus on Generation Z
This year, Youcat is once again present at World Youth Day – with big plans and a new secret weapon called Dialogical Catechesis.
- World Youth Day in Lisbon
- Catechists are needed as witnesses and disciples of Jesus
- Identifying target groups in Lisbon
- Helping young people inspire young people
World Youth Day in Lisbon
This yellow booklet has been a fixture on all continents since it was sent out from World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011. Back then, Pope Benedict XVI had over a million copies of the Youcat put into the colorful pilgrim backpacks, and in doing so, laid the foundation for a new awakening around the world. At this year’s World Youth Day in Lisbon, an international team of Youcat missionaries has a stand at the Vocation Fair in the Bélem district – “loud, colorful and with few books!” chuckles Theresia Theuke, the director of the international Youcat Foundation based in Germany.
In an interview with the Tagespost, the thirty-six-year-old mother of five explains why the organization in Lisbon, instead of distributing stacks of Youcats, Docats, and its other products, relies on a single secret weapon: a recently published little volume called Dialogical Catechesis. In his preface, Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst describes the work as “a language school of faith that makes the catechist a witness.”
Catechists are needed as witnesses and disciples of Jesus
With about 100 pages in the new Youcat design, the manual brings together the experiences that catechists around the world have made with the Youcat in recent years. “We are increasingly noticing that catechesis in its traditional form of only imparting knowledge no longer reaches young people. This is why we asked: How can the church change its approach so that it is understood?,” Theuke explains. From monological classroom teaching to a dialogical approach, where there are no longer teachers and students, but only disciples who embark on the journey together: “We must abandon a catechesis that practiced a religious technique and translated the reality of faith into material of knowledge,” says the booklet.
This would require catechists who see themselves first and foremost as witnesses and disciples of Jesus, and whose goal it is to accompany their fellow human beings into a lasting relationship with Jesus Christ. Catechesis must no longer be a “one-way communication” from top to bottom, but must take place within a community of disciples who jointly listen to the Word of God. “We need to consider four building blocks for catechesis: the cognitive, the spiritual, the community dimension, and the sacramental,” Theresia Theuke explains. “This requires the whole church to return to the way the early Christians communicated the faith – through witness and community.”
Dialogical catechesis may draw on the intuition of three popes of the 21st century. With the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the “sure norm for teaching the faith,” Pope John Paul II gave catechesis a solid foundation. With the Motu Proprio Antiquum Ministry of 2021, Pope Francis wishes to revitalize the ministry of catechist in the Church, especially by lay people. The dialogical catechesis states as well, “There will always be a need for the person who, while traveling at eye level with the community of those who seek, is nevertheless not completely “bottom-up” but meets the circle from the center of the Church with a mission of their own.”
Identifying target groups in Lisbon
“Form groups and study networks, exchange ideas on the Internet. In any case remain in dialogue on your faith! You must know what you believe,” wrote Pope Benedict XVI in his foreword to Youcat 2011 – and was taken at his word by young people all over the world. The international Youcat organization is now ready for the next stage: the formation of a Missionary Network, a community of missionaries and catechists spanning the globe. The Dialogical Catechesis is aimed at them – the Youcat team has 5,000 copies in its luggage at World Youth Day, and 1,200 copies have already been sent by Youcat to multipliers all over the world. “Here in Lisbon, we are trying to identify the target group of catechists and missionaries and invite them to the Missionary Network,” Theuke explains.
To this end, in addition to the stand, the team is also sending mobile groups of two into the race, which will be out and about at the locations of World Youth Day and specifically address group leaders and priests. “Missionaries and catechists, they are not only priests at all levels of the hierarchy of the Church, but also lay people. With Dialogical Catechesis we want to invite them to re-imagine catechesis,” Theuke adds. In the future, Youcat wants to develop new digital offerings for the Missionary Network to promote international exchange. “Learning from one other, listening to one other, putting Christ at the center – this is how Youcat puts synodality into practice. The point is not to somehow adapt the teachings of the Church, but to find a language and form of expression that is universally suitable,” the director of Youcat elaborates. The Missionary Network’s long-range goal is an international catechesis conference in two to three years.
Helping young people inspire young people
“If you do something for young people, you have to do it with them!” The message that Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn gave the developers of the first Youcat at the very beginning is all the more topical when it comes to the Gen Z, which will make up the largest group at this World Youth Day. Generation Z comprises those born between 1995 and 2010, who are much more influenced by social media, the ubiquity of the Internet, climate change and covid than the Millenials. A generation that, according to the Shell Youth Study of 2019, demands more political say and wants to live in a value-oriented way. But it lacks orientation. The fact that there is a great deal of uncertainty in the church hierarchy about how to address this generation is also confirmed by Theuke. One of her Zambian comrades-in-arms had recently stated: “This can only be done if we openly and clearly identify ourselves as missionaries, and wherever we are placed, proclaim the Word of God.”
For Theresia Theuke, this is also the crux of dialogical catechesis: “We must empower young people to get other young people excited about the faith. We need to organize catechesis in such a way that young people bear witness before their peers.” At World Youth Day this year, Youcat is therefore deliberately relying more on addressing people personally than on books: “Face-to-face communication works, regardless of the generation!”
Since the end of July, Youcat has been up and running with a new website: youcat.org
This article was first published by the Catholic weekly newspaper Die Tagespost.
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