Mgr Paul Grogan

Mgr Paul Grogan
Mgr Paul Grogan

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Peer support

Yesterday ten people turned up for the lunchtime Mass at Leeds Trinity. That may not sound remarkable but I can't recall having such a large congregation for a weekday Mass in the four-and-a-half years I've been here. It was lovely! Something happened: some students talked to each other; members of staff found that they were free. There was a sense of solidarity: I could tell that each found the others' presence encouraging.

Young people can find the great act of the Mass unremarkable and then suddenly, when one of their friends shows an interest, they rediscover its beauty themselves. That's like-to-like ministry, I suppose. When I was first appointed to be a chaplain in higher education, I was dismayed by how little students seemed to want to participate in worship, whether it be the Eucharist or meditation groups or ecumenical services. Now I feel far more relaxed about this. There is so much that is going on in their lives: distractedness is a normal dimension of the process of growing up. Moreover, how can they, like the rest of us, not be victims of aggressive secularization?

What is interesting is when one young person says: "I want to believe and I want to express my faith in worship." That's a far bigger thing to do now than when I was their age. A while ago I heard one young woman who was received into the Catholic Church not so long ago in conversation with some other students. "You can't believe everything that the Catholic Church teaches!" said one. "Yes I do," she said happily and simply. "Everything!" You could sense the admiration among her peers. It was like she had just opened up new possibilities for each of them.

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