Note: In this article, I do make reference to devout Vietnamese Catholic Parents that may sound negative. However, please know that from the bottom of my heart, I am thankful for the gift of parents. I have not made much contact with the faith life of parents in other cultures and therefore, do not know their activities. Please let me know if you are offended by this and I will try my best to revise the article.
“The Church is not the church if it’s stuck in the Church.”
Now that the Season of Lent is over, I ask myself, “Have I really evangelized to anyone or was I stuck at the Church all day, participating in Parish events all through Lent and the Triduum?”
This year, I just could not believe what was on my schedule from our Parish’s Night of Prayer rehearsals, choir rehearsals, and Mass rehearsals taking up most of my weekends leading up to Holy Week. On top of that, so many favours from ministries I belong to just crash onto me: Vincent! Do this for this group, do that for that group… I gladly accept to do most of them, especially when it comes to working with the Youth and Young Adults ministries at Vietnamese Martyrs’ Parish. However, there are just some requests that I just cannot do, especially when rehearsals or practices are required. Sometimes, I accept commitments because I enjoy doing that job such as Altar Serving, graphic designing. But sometimes, I am actually pushed into doing things perhaps not with my own consent but my parents’ consent.
The truth is that, I really love God and the Church. I am in love with the Catholic faith. Sometimes, I find it so enjoying serving the Parish community through Altar Serving or helping with Youth Ministries. However, sometimes when I am pushed into things without my consent, then serving God becomes a burden. Many Vietnamese Catholic Teens are most of the time forced by their devout parents to join, in most cases ALL of our parish’s ministries. I think that many Vietnamese Catholic Parents want their children to join Parish ministries to serve the church and actively participate in the life of the Parish community and on top of that want their child to have good grades in school so to become Doctors. Lawyers… money makers! But it seems like to me that, some parents are too concerned about their child’s education and faith life in the Parish community and pressure them to get good grades that there is not freedom for their social life. I believe this is a big mistake as it is through social life that their children can evangelize to their friends.
I have realized that Parish life has become about 75% of my life. Looking at my planner, almost 75% are Parish activities. Often, I have to be committed to doing a certain activity at the Parish that I am forced to put aside certain activities that I myself have committed myself to. I am the grade 9 representative at my secondary school, Chaminade College School. However, sometime I feel like I have not actively taken part in my responsibilities in representing over 100 grade 9s at my school. In my heart, I love both my school community and Parish community. But now, the time has come that I have realized that I need to balance both out. I can live my faith life both in my school and parish. There is no need to evangelize in the church… everyone is Catholic. I have realized the need to expand. I need to go out and evangelize OUTSIDE of the walls of the church. Vietnamese Catholic Parents, due to their life in Vietnam may have not had the same experiences in school with the many extra-curricular activities to enhance school experience. Instead, during their time, they have had participated in the Parish ministries instead. Now it’s both school (social) and parish (faith) activities and I believe that both need a balance.
Catholics should take every opportunity they can to evangelize. We should not be stuck working in the church all year long. Parents should be encouraging their children to do this. Of course, it is good to participate in Parish ministries. Participation in the Parish life should not cause a burden, lack enjoyment and lack of love for God. Both faith and social life need a balance. A teen’s life should not be 75% Faith life or 75% Social life either. Faith life should take 50% and social life should take the other 50%. Social life is a chance for us to evangelize. How often do we take our faith too seriously and everything is church, church, church. The evangelization is equally important as participating in the Parish life and that philosophy is often forgotten.
I have said, “The Church is not the church if it’s stuck in the Church.” The point I want to get across is that the role of evangelization is vital in the growth of the Catholic Church. Why call ourselves people of the Roman Catholic Church if we are isolating ourselves from others instead of gathering others? Catholics should not be going to celebrate Mass and saying prayers in Church. We should be witnesses of Christ in all that we do; our words and our actions.