Considerable effort is given to involve youth from within the parish. There are a number of reasons for this.
- The parish should form part of a triad in the faith development of Catholics (together with the family and the school). Antioch provides an important ‘bridge’ between school and parish.
- Although our youth coming into the weekend often have little sense of parish, the Antioch experience can change that. They identify with their own parish and subsequently become involved.
- Families are encouraged to worship together and parish involvement lessens difficulties with transport and distance.
The focus of Antioch is spiritual development. It emphasises the Sacraments and takes a relational approach to faith, based on Jesus’ final prayer for unity (John 17). Its vision of Church is one of a community of believers that exists “so that the world may believe”, hence the titles of the first two National Conventions “One for Others” and “Together We Make the Difference”.
Social events are recognised as important in human development. However, the view is taken that these are best organised informally by the youth themselves and that they will flow naturally out from the creation of a Christian community.
Youth to Youth Ministry
Antioch functions through the leadership and involvement of youth. They lead the weekend, give the talks, lead the discussion and sleep groups, and most importantly, minister to each other on a one-to-one basis during the weekend and after it. By listening, sharing, supporting and challenging each other, they help each other to see their own personal situation more clearly in the light of the Gospel message.
Antioch is a powerful means of developing future leadership since it fosters an attitude that the Church believes in relationship with the Lord and with each other, and that each has a role to play in this. Youth discover that they are the Church of the present, not just the future, sometimes being even more effective in influencing the lives of their friends than priests, religious or parents. Also, youth from “parent” parish communities often participate in the formation of new communities. This further fosters a missionary spirit and Church leadership.
Antioch relies heavily on the use of human qualities of friendship and leadership. Since youth have a far better grasp of what influences their peer group than older people, it is essential that they have the major say in questions of style and in the selection of personnel for particular roles.
It is worth emphasising that the vitality and exuberance of youth are important gifts that our Church needs to fulfil its mission. These gifts need to be drawn into the mainstream of parish life, to become part of its “good news”, and not tolerated as just nice extras.
Antioch functions effectively without full-time youth workers. There is no question that the latter provide an invaluable service to our youth. However, Antioch works on peer pressure. This is more effective when it comes from their own immediate peer group than from slightly older paid staff.
Role of Adults in Antioch
Adult support is essential to the movement. Although in the background and low key, adults provide maturity, guidance and follow-through. It is important that the adult leaders be “down to earth” and trusted by the young people.
Should ideally be a presence and a spiritual adviser in the community, especially on a one-to-one basis. However, this is not always possible, and Antioch can function in a parish with a parish priest’s approval and the initiative and support of the laity.
In some parishes the religious have been the initiators of the movement. They have an important supportive role and bring the witness of their religious vocation to the community.
The Married Couple
The married couple has a special role in Antioch and it is recommended that the programme be introduced into a parish only when a suitable married couple has made themselves available. Their role goes beyond providing the usual adult qualities needed to support any youth movement. It is more than providing male and female adult role models.
The focus of Antioch is building a Christ-centred community. The married couple is the basic human community and, through their Sacrament of matrimony and their witness of commitment and intimacy, they bring to the community a dimension that is distinct from that brought by a single person.
This is especially relevant for the many young people coming through Antioch from broken families and hurt situations.
Hospitality of the home and openness of the couple are key factors. Their home and their hearts become, in a true sense, the “drop-in centre” for the community.
For these reasons, it is important to have couples who are sensitive to the reality of the young people’s world. They must be willing to “roll with the punches”. Both for their own sake and for the sake of the young people they must be prepared to share themselves.
Because of the time commitments involved, it is desirable, but not essential, that the couple have teenage children involved in Antioch. In this way, they will be working with their children, not apart from them. Also, there should ideally be two or more support couples involved in each community.
It should be mentioned that couples associated with the Marriage Encounter, Cursillo and Celebrate Love movements, have played a major supportive role in the establishment and spread of Antioch.