William E. Koenig, the soon-to-be 10th bishop of the Diocese of Wilmington, sat down for a question-and-answer session with Joseph P. Owens, editor of The Dialog. The full Q&A appears in “Welcome Our Shepherd” the 72-page special section included with the July 16 edition of The Dialog. An excerpt of that conversation is below.
Q: Bishop, you have a background in Catholic Youth Ministry. We have an active Catholic Youth program that includes all sorts of engagement to get young people involved in their church. Many of us are Catholic parents who raise our children in the church only to find that they make different decisions for themselves as they grow older. What can we do better to more fully engage young people in their faith and help make it a part of their lives?
A: First of all, let’s know we leave some things in God’s hands and therefore we turn to God in prayer. Saint Monica was the great example of that as far as her just dedicating her life to praying for her son, Saint Augustine.
Part of it is, we do our best to form young people, making sure that they go to Mass, that they experience the sacraments, but then when they get to a certain age we also realize that as young adults now they have freedom and now we have to step back and continue to pray that they make the right choices. And that they know the truth of our faith and the riches of our faith.
I don’t think there is one way where you can just say ‘This will turn everyone around.’ The important thing is giving them an experience as they get older and then stepping back and allowing them to make their choices.
I must say, in my parish experience, I’ve been touched by the example of grandparents, who will bring children to Mass, maybe when they’re staying with them for a weekend or perhaps if they’re in the same neighborhood, they bring them to religious education, part of it is because the parents are working and they can’t get the children to religious education, but the grandparents are the ones who expose their grandchildren – this next generation – to our faith.