I love working with teens. I love their enthusiasm, I love that they question nearly everything, I love their openness to discussing hard issues in groups. I could probably do without their sarcasm (when they use it, but mind, I was extremely sarcastic when I was a teen), and perhaps without their inability to prioritise well (and I must put in that I know many adults here who have a harder time than the teens), but I enjoy their company and who they are as teens. I love being in a position that allows me to minister to them developmentally and spiritually. There are very few places that allow for this openly.
I love my faith. I love the Catholic church. I love our sacraments, I love our community, I love our history and tradition, I love everything that creates the Catholic identity that I embrace. I could probably do without its hypocrisies, do without its lack of enthusiasm regarding lay ministry, and perhaps when it employs a derogatory attitude towards women, but I really like being able to express in a very full and satisfying way the love for life in Christ with a community of believers. There are very few faiths and denominations that can express this with me.
Working with teens in the church? Seems like a pretty darned good match, doesn’t it? Yet as I said in the things I could do without in the Catholicism, its lack of ability to understand lay ministry and its hypocritical approach regarding expectations of lay ministers and paid work create an atmosphere of low morale and confusion. So often in our parishes and diocese it is hard to see Christ in the administration of ministries and workers, where such important documents like Rerum Novarum, written in 1892(!) have not been taken seriously in our own Holy Mother Church.
And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. (Gen 2:2-3)
Working for weeks straight without a weekend, working 10 hours a day for days on end, not receiving recompense for extra responsibilities that have been taken on and yet expected, not being able to draw appropriate time boundaries because there is not adequate nor reliable help from those who ensured they’d help with responsibility. What does this say about human dignity? For me, it feels as though my work is more important than who I am. I am absolutely certain that this attitude is not Catholic, so why is it dominating our Catholic workspaces in so many places? I am aware that I have worth because I am loved by God, not because of what I can do. I am certain that my work, though important, is not more important than who I am. I know I am not the only paid pastoral minister who experiences this. I am aware that this problem extends beyond the Catholic workspace, but as a faith organisation who has written documents to not only Catholics on this topic, but also addressing the world on these issues, I find this a crime against the Catholic church’s very beliefs and a crime and violation against humanity to promulgate this attitude in the Catholic workspace.
While at a Diocesan Youth Minister’s meeting at the beginning of the month, I was given some enlightening information: approximately 20% of youth ministers who continue in their ministry at their parish after 13 months. That means there is approximately an 80% rate of youth ministers who quit within 13 months. One of my first questions is this: is this stat relevant to all paid pastoral lay ministry? If so, why? In the emergence of the importance of lay ministry, why is our theology so lacking in expectations for lay ministers who have not devoted their lives to celibacy? For those who have a vocation to family or the single life? Where is our church showing the love of Christ for them in the workspace?
Is this a rant? No, it’s much more thought out than a rant. It is a problem with ministry in our Church that has not been adequately dealt with, nor has it been properly recognised in diocese by bishops who are entrusted with the responsibility for paid pastoral lay ministers. This is a call and a challenge to think about this issue and ways in which we can all work towards a just workplace, in modelling it in our churches and advocating for it secular workplaces. It is hard for an orgnaisation of believers to advocate for something that is not first modeled in its own leadership.