Challenge for the Church today
By Hector Pascua
An eight –year-old child opted to stay after the afternoon’s religion class. She approached me as I was packing my things. “Hector, do children in the Philippines have religion classes, too?” she asked me. “Of course, they do. Like you, they are also preparing themselves for the First Holy Communion,” I answered back.
It was in 1997 when I started teaching religion in the public school in Vienna. Aside from working in suburban Vienna Parish of Leopoldau, I had accepted the offer of the Diocese to take this extra apostolate. Teaching religion in the elementary and secondary schools needs a lot of patience and courage. The first time I entered the classroom, I saw in the faces of the pupils and students their prejudices. A fourteen-year-old boy shouted at once, “Wir brauchen keinen Schwazens!” – We do not need black people here! I did not take seriously the boy’s comment. I answered back with a smile on my face, “Es gibt uberhaupt keinen Schwazen da. Meine Farbe ist braun!” there is nobody black here. My skin is brown. Everybody laughed. I presented my short biography and our program for the next hour. From then on, I have heard no racist remark.
No Moral Explanations
Nevertheless, I find it always difficult to penetrate the youth’s religious thoughts. They seem to be more interested in worldly issues. Questions such as sexuality, abortion, use of artificial methods of birth control are brought up in the classroom. I regard these issues as important in building up the Christian consciousness of the youth. Some, of course, do not accept Christian teaching on these issues.
The rise of modern technology is one of the reasons why young people are losing their interest in the Church. More and more youths are attending the religion classes just to make their elders happy, parents who wish that their children grow up in a Christian way. On the other hand, the Austrian government is planning to abolish religion classes, and the Catholic Church is very much against this. It is important to note that religion teachers are being paid by the government. Since the government is economizing, the idea of abolishing religion classes appeals to them.
On the positive side, committed and dynamic young people are beginning to bloom in the Diocese of Vienna. In order to combat the rising “No Church and No-God” mentality of the youth, each of our four vicariates has its own Jugend Zentrum – Youth Center – where youth activities in the parishes and schools are being coordinated. In my parish alone, 15 active young people are regularly participating in vicariate activities. These 15 youths likewise help me in maintaining children’s groups in the parish, where ages 7 to 13 meet once a week in the Parish House. The objective of the Juchargruppen is to build-up a community, patterned after Jesus’ ideals. In the long run, these children and youths slowly learn to integrate themselves in the life of the parish-community. In fact they plan and organize Sunday masses for the community twice a year, where they can bring out their talents in singing and formulating prayers for the mass.
Spiritual and Religious Maturity
My youth and children apostolate both in the school and the Parish is contributing much to my personal and religious maturity. My five years in the apostolate have been years of struggle, loneliness, failure and success. I can now speak with authority in particular fields such as the youth and children apostolate, Liturgy, theological issues and the media apostolate. I am the editor of the parish newspaper coming out once a month.
Challenge to the Church
Europe is becoming more and more materialistic. The Age of the Computer has dawned. People no longer ask whether God exist or not. What is important for them is the fact that they are presently enjoying life. It is my fervent prayer that I may remain steadfast and courageous enough to meet these challenges.