The 1997 General Directory of Catechesis contained a statement about catechizing youth that I found to be both profound and prophetic:
It must be emphasized, however, that frequently contemporary evangelization of young people must adopt a missionary dimension rather than a strictly catechumenal dimension. Indeed, the situation often demands that the apostolate amongst young people be an animation of a missionary or humanitarian nature, as a necessary first step to bringing to maturity the dispositions favorable to the strictly catechetical moment.
As a formator for people who minister to young people, I had often quoted the above to emphasize the missionary attitude that we must have in order to effectively pass the faith on to the young. I was eager to see if the new Directory for Catechesis would continue that focus.
The answer is yes, and then some. The advice given for ministering to youth over twenty years ago now applies to the entirety of catechetical ministry for people of all ages. “In this renewed awareness of her vocation, the Church is also re-envisioning catechesis as one of her works in a missionary going forth” (DC 50). This means we must proclaim Christ to a foreign culture by looking for the presence of Christ within that culture, echoing the advice from Ad Gentes, “let them gladly and reverently lay bare the seeds of the Word which lie hidden among their fellows.”
Though young people live near adults physically, culturally they can be worlds apart. One of the great divides occurs through the use of technology. The Directory states, “Particular attention should be given to the condition of being digital natives that characterizes many children throughout the world” (DC 237). Social media is more than a new technology. It has become a new language that the Church must learn to speak if it is to successfully proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the young.