Youth of the Church in Taiwan
When Maria was first appointed to Taiwan in 2014, she immediately became involved in prison ministry. She worked with both youth and adults that were confined. Since 2018, she has been a member of the youth ministry coordinating team in the diocese of Shinju. She says that when she returned to Taiwan for her second term she received an invitation from Fr. Francis Rex who was in charge of the youth ministry for the diocese. He was hoping that she would join the coordinating team, believing that as a lay person she could become more invovled with her fellow laity. Fr. Rex was a priest that valued the role of lay missionaries, and he believed that the ordinary Catholics would relate better with their fellow lay people like her. She relates her story below:
I thought that it was rather unfortunate that only a small number of young people attended Sunday Mass and that they disappeared as soon as Mass was over. I saw this as my opportunity to become involved with people I was interested in and was only too happy to accept Fr. Rex’s invitation.
As soon as I joined the youth coordinating team I began to visit all the parishes which helped me get to know better the situation of the Catholic diocese of Shinju. The diocese is divided into four districts or areas, Daowon, west and east Shinju as well as Miaori. The youth ministry comprises the Sunday School Program [kindergarten, elementary and secondary], the youth leaders
I had many great memories of the activities of the youth groups... I recall that it was a time of great grace as we put God in the center when we met to share.
among the secondary school teachers, and the university student’s social groups. However as the number of believers are quite small and the number of youth even smaller not all parishes have all of these sections functioning which means in many cases they are combined as one and run as one group. The number of youth in the university social groups is extremely small as after they graduate from secondary school they enter universities in different parts of the country with few of them returning to their original parishes. Having obtained permission from the diocesan youth team, I started a Gospel sharing meeting with the university students’ social groups. I visited all the parishes and explained the nature of the planned social groups and met the students one on one inviting them to join these groups.
I had many great memories of the activities of the youth groups in Korea. The group sharing after Mass was always good, and they got involved in things like making candles for the Easter and Christmas celebrations. These were truly blessed times for us as we tried to be of service to the church. Many young people from different parts of Korea lived in our parish as they had come to find employment in the area. I remember how rich the sharing was as people shared their varied experiences. I recall that it was a time of great grace as we put God in the center when we met to share.
Remembering all those encouraging experiences that I had had in Korea I enthusiastically began Gospel sharing meetings with the youth of the diocese of Shinju only to experience many challenges. I was often frustrated by my inexperience in conducting meetings as well as some language difficulties. While I started out with the specific goal of establishing youth social meetings in every parish, I had to adjust my plan and be satisfied in setting up just one group for each district. While there were many complications in trying to get those groups up and running I can proudly say that they are still running one year later. Through the grace of God they are still functioning even though at times I have had to lower my expectations of them. When I look at the work of the youth ministry in the diocese I see that it is gradually progressing and that new shoots of the Lord’s love are growing slowly. At diocesan, district, and parish levels new volunteers are being trained and lots of effort is being put into developing a combined program. The youth ministry is alive and active even though progress is slow. My prayer is that the youth ministry in the church of Taiwan will continue to grow with the love of God and that it will put down deeper roots.
Columban lay missionary Kim Sun-hee (Maria) lives and works in Taiwan.