Young people sing and play music at the the youth Mass held at St. Patrick's Church in Markham, Ont. Photo by Michael Chen

Youth Mass involves youth in ministry

By  Michael Chen, Youth Speak News
  • November 25, 2010

Markham, Ont. - One teenager doesn’t attend Mass regularly because he finds it boring. Another prefers sleeping in on Sunday. Whatever the excuse for skipping Mass, we’ve heard it before. But some parishes in Toronto are offering a solution: youth Masses.

Grade 12 student Isaac Peiris attends youth mass because it speak to issues he’s experiencing while avoiding the generation gap sometimes found at traditional Masses.

“We don’t understand what our parents are facing and they might not know what we’re feeling, so it’s an opportunity to unite and better understand what messages are being preached,” said the Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School student.

At St. Patrick’s parish in Markham, Ont., the singing and instrumental talent of the youth band fills the congregation’s ears every second week at the youth Mass. These Masses, distinctive for their high youth attendance and youth involvement in many aspects of the liturgy, are designed to bring youth together.

Youth and their families can join in and sing with tailor-made songbooks filled with upbeat lyrics from Christian singers such as Matt Marr, Chris Tomlin and Mercy Me.

In addition, teenagers can participate through other roles including eucharistic minister, lector reading, choir and offertory roles. At the Nov. 7 Mass, once the youth band performed the closing psalm after the final blessing, the congregation showed its appreciation through applause.

“Youth Masses are a parish-driven initiative,” said John Dawson, program co-ordinator and music director at the Office of Catholic Youth. He estimates there are currently at least 20 to 25 parishes in the archdiocese of Toronto that hold youth Masses.

Youth Masses make a direct connection to youth through the homilies, addressing topics that are relevant to young people, said Fr. Joe Singh, pastor at St. Justin Martyr parish in Unionville, Ont. For example, he said, he’ll mention topics such as Twitter or e-mail. At his parish, they started holding youth Masses every other Sunday because they felt they needed something to appeal more to the youth.

Rowena Rollon, a member of the St. Rose of Lima youth group, was a part of a youth Mass held at the parish in September.

“During a regular Mass, the youth aren’t as involved,” Rollon said. “The people who read are usually adults and most of the time, the choir members are adults as well. Youth Masses give us a chance to participate in Mass and, if youth like what they see, they can be inspired to a be a choir member, altar server or reader.”

The St. Rose of Lima youth Mass also included dancing while the offertory was going up, she said.

“Youth were going with the altar servers and they were dancing, clapping and skipping.”

Catherine Avery, director of the youth band at St. Patrick’s, said it’s beneficial to have Masses dedicated to youth to keep them engaged in parish life.

“For those not sure on their faith journey, it’s good to set an example in the community,” she said.

But Dawson said that while youth Masses can help get youth involved in their parish community, young people need to be encouraged to move beyond this.

“The main concern with a youth-specific liturgy is that it runs the risk of creating a parallel Church, in a sense, a sub-group within a larger community. While the pastoral needs of young people do often require a unique approach to catechesis, evangelization and formation, the liturgy is the time to celebrate our unity of the people of God. Anything that may risk compromising that needs to be carefully considered.”

Joanna Morra, a youth leader at Epiphany of Our Lord parish in Scarborough, Ont., said that while masses celebrating youth and bringing them closer to God are beneficial, young people still need to understand the importance of the traditional Mass.

“I think it’s fine because there’s a purpose behind it,” she said. “You’re targeting an audience who needs something to attend. However, you can’t substitute a youth Mass on a regular basis.”

(Michael Chen, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Mary Ward C.S.S. in Scarborough, Ont.)

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