Bible Society New Zealand is to launch a campaign designed to be a movement throughout Asia-Pacific that it is hoped will invigorate the faith of young people, and help them discern God’s plans for them.
The campaign, brainchild of Bible Society NZ Catholic adviser John Bergin, is a follow up to Pope Francis’ exhortation Christus Vivit, which was based on the results of the 2018 synod on young people, faith and vocational discernment.
“The idea was to specifically help young people discern their calling in life by encouraging them to develop a closer relationship with God through Scripture, and seeking the advice and help on the big issues that they said were impacting on their life,” Mr Bergin said.
He added that it is hoped that the campaign will create a movement which young people, particularly young Catholics, would be quite happy to become part of, and which would help them determine what God’s plans are for their lives.
“Don’t ask your mate. Don’t ask your schoolteacher. Don’t ask your gym instructor. Ask God,” he explained. “And the only way you can do that, really, is to have a relationship with God.”
He said three words were taken from the Pope’s exhortation: listen, decide and act. “Listen to God’s word, decide what you are going to do about it and act, put it into action,” he said.
Mr Bergin said there are four key elements to this campaign. The first is the creation of the Catholic Bible website called The Word (theword.nz).
“It has on it video clips of all the New Zealand bishops, about 30 priests in New Zealand, and a large number of students and young people reflecting on Scriptures in various ways,” he said.
The second element is the establishment of a New Testament text that is accessible to young people – called “Identity Identified: a young person’s guide to life”.
This text will have highlighted passages throughout which address the issues that are impacting young people like bullying, coming from a broken family, sex before marriage, loneliness and suicide.
“It will have Church teachings on those topics as a special inserts throughout the whole book,” he said.
Mr Bergin said New Zealand Bishops Stephen Lowe and Michael Dooley, as well as Cardinal John Dew, are among the many contributors who have written reflections and specific articles on the big issues of life for the new publication.
“The [work] will be submitted to Cardinal [Luis] Tagle, who will be asked to issue an imprimatur for it. A special edition of the finished product will be presented to Pope Francis as Bible Society’s response to his call for young people to listen to God’s Word, decide what to do about it and to take action,” he said.
Along with the bishops of New Zealand, bishops and theologians from Australia, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, Borneo, Indonesia, and Malaysia have contributed articles to the work.
Mr Bergin said the campaign will be rolled out in New Zealand and four other countries in July, 2021, and to four other countries the following year.
The third element in the campaign is the development of a parish project aid “so that young people who want to do a period of time of working through these issues in a group environment can”.
The last element in the campaign is a downloadable app which links to Identity Identified and The Word website. “Once they get the app, they will have a daily reflection available to them on these issues,” Mr Bergin said.
“A lot of young people . . . struggle with issues, and we don’t know about it. It’s easy to say – go and pray about it, go and talk to the saints, go and read the Bible, but that’s not going to cut it for a lot of young people,” he said.
Mr Bergin said Come and Follow Me is Bible Society’s response to the challenge for young people to be more engaged and more enthusiastic about life, through the guidance of the Scriptures, in ways that they can relate to, as well as helping them understand Church teachings on key issues when everything can be confusing and troubling for them.
Reproduced with permission from the 24 January – 6 February 2021 (Issue 606) edition of NZ Catholic, the national Catholic newspaper of New Zealand, published by the Catholic Bishop of Auckland.