By Alex Cosgrave
A call for a Catholic national youth assembly has come from a group of young people and has won the backing of the Catholic Youth Service Council.
The young people, who first met when they represented the Catholic Church at a meeting of the English Churches Youth Asssembly, feel that a national grouping is needed so that young people can have a voice in the Church.
They also feel that such an assembly would improve communications between existing youth organisations, foster new youth groups and -perhaps most importantly begin to meet the spiritual needs of young people who are not involved in the Institutional Church.
Plans for the assembly are still in their infancy but Mr C. A. James, of the Catholic Youth Service Council, said this week that he believed young people wanted to play an active part in the life of the Church and the assembly might be one way of encouraging them.
But Mr James was adamant that it was the young people themselves who must run the assembly. "We cannot get any real personal growth for young people in the Church unless we offer them the reality of responsibility for shaping their own affairs," he said.
The CYSC will, however, service the youth group in their work to set up the assembly. According to Mr James, several similar attempts have failed in the past because they were not sufficiently well administered, and the CYSC is determined to 4ive the present plan the best possible chance of success.
Mr John Proctor, Chairman of the English Churches Youth Assembly. who has been involved with the group since its beginning, said this week that he hoped the assembly would have a great spiritual emphasis.
"It is so easy just to come together and talk about problems which is good, but spirituality is all something we need and can share in, no matter where we live or what our class," he said.
The assembly hopes to attract mainly school-leavers and young married couples. A meeting in February will begin to work out the details of funding, venue and how to involve as many young people as possible.
At the moment, however, it is envisaged that there would be a nationwide programme of preparation for the assembly through local retreats and conferences leading up to a "festival of prayers".
One possible model for the assembly would be to have diocesan youth representatives, but the committee is at present discussing whether to use the existing diocesan youth structures or to find new ways of attracting young people.
Miss Katy Taylor, Liverpool youth worker and another member of the group which suggested the assembly, said she felt the assembly could be a great opportunity for sharing ideas and experiences both among youth organisations and different areas of the country. The assembly would also be a time of spiritual renewal, she said.
The Catholic Church has traditionally relied on Catholic Schools, the parish and a scattering of youth clubs to serve the needs of Catholic youth.
Most dioceses have a diocesan youth service, but these range from elected bodies which work for young people to organisations which are representative of the young people of the diocese such as in Portsmouth, where each deanery pastoral council has formal rules aboot youth representation.
In general, however, the Catholic youth service at local level is far less developed than that of other Churches. The Methodists, for example have 3,500 youth groups attached to churches, 50 to 60 full-time professional youth leaders, and in the region of 10,000 voluntary youth leaders.