Editor’s Note

On May 25 and 26, the Catholic Church reached a significant milestone when Pope Francis inaugurated the first World Children’s Day celebration.

Jun 07, 2024

By Patricia Pereira
On May 25 and 26, the Catholic Church reached a significant milestone when Pope Francis inaugurated the first World Children’s Day celebration. This event, attended by over 50,000 children in Rome, powerfully demonstrated the Church’s dedication to nurturing the faith and wellbeing of its youngest members. Unfortunately, this momentous occasion did not receive the prominence it deserved within our local dioceses here in Malaysia.

Pope Francis, in his address during the celebration, emphasised the importance of children not just as the future of the Church, but as its present. He reminded us that children bring a unique vitality, joy, and purity to the faith community, qualities that are essential for the spiritual growth of the Church. “Children are a sign of hope and renewal,” the Pope said, highlighting how their innocent faith and boundless energy can inspire and invigorate the entire congregation.

Despite this powerful message, the li-mited attention given to World Children’s Day in our local parishes suggests a need for a paradigm shift in how we engage with our young parishioners. In many parishes, the focus on children’s involvement in church activities has been largely confined to Catechism once a week and the occasional performances during special events. While catechism provides an important foundation in religious education, it is insufficient in fully integrating children into the life of the Church.

To truly honour and celebrate children, our parishes need to take concrete steps to integrate them more fully into the life of the Church. We could consider implementing some of the following initiatives, many of which may already be in practice in some parishes:

Inclusive Liturgies: Design liturgies that are child-friendly and encourage active participation from children. This can include children’s choirs, opportunities for them to read during Mass, and involving them in the offertory procession. When children see themselves as active participants in the Mass, it helps them to understand and appreciate the significance of the Mass on a deeper level. At the same time, they feel a greater sense of belonging and importance within the Church community.

Faith-Based Activities: Organise activities that cater to different age groups, such as Bible camps, faith-based arts and crafts, and storytelling sessions. These activities should be designed to be engaging and educational, helping children to connect with their faith in a meaningful way.

Family-Centred Programmes: Develop programmes that involve the whole family, recognising that the faith formation of children is most effective when supported by the family unit. Family retreats, parish picnics and community service projects can provide opportunities for families to live out their faith together, while fostering a deeper connection to the parish.

Listening to Children’s Voices: Create forums where children can express their thoughts and feelings about their faith and their experiences in Church. This encourages them to take ownership of their spiritual growth. This practice not only empowers children but also enriches the parish with fresh perspectives.

One of the key messages from Pope Francis during the celebration was the call to listen to children. He said, “Children have a way of seeing things that can enrich us if we only take the time to listen.” This is a great reminder that children’s voices need to be heard in our communities. Their insights, questions, and perspectives can offer fresh and valuable contributions to our understanding of faith and community.

The Holy Father also spoke about the importance of safeguarding the rights and dignity of children. He called on the Church to be a sanctuary for the young, a place where they feel loved, protected, and valued.

This involves not only safeguarding them from harm but also ensuring that they are given the space to grow, explore, and develop their faith in a supportive community.

As we look forward to the next World Children’s Day, it is our hope that more parishes in Malaysia will take the initiative to celebrate this day in a more meaningful and impactful way. Let us draw inspiration from Pope Francis’s words and recognise that children are not merely passive recipients of our teachings but active participants in our faith community. As we move forward, let us commit to making our parishes vibrant communities where children feel seen, heard, and cherished. By doing so, we honour their role in the Church and embrace the boundless potential they hold for its future.

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