A community contextualised sacramental model
During its 110 years of experience typically working in tightly knit village communities, the Preca Community developed a community contextualised sacramental model which offers the Church a way forward to engage young people in the life of Catholic Parishes after their Confirmation.
Underpinning the community contextualised sacramental model are three maxims. First “faith is caught not taught”. Secondly “one cannot give something that one does not possess”. From maxim one and two it follows that faith can only be caught from a faith filled person. Preca Community aims to form its members primarily as holy people and also prepared them “to give an answer to everyone who asks them to give the reason for their hope” (1 Peter 3:15). From the same two maxims it also follows that one needs to provide a space where catechists can be with young people for several hours a week. The third maxim is that “faith formation aims at forming missionary disciples of Jesus”. Disciples are always on a journey and hence formation never stops. Preca Community traditionally focuses its formation ministry at adolescent people.
The community contextualised sacramental model traditionally takes place at Preca Centres. These buildings are similar to Salesian Oratories, where spaces are provided to play sport (indoor soccer is by far the most popular), to socialise over a light snack and drink, to dance, to sing or to play an instrument or some game, or just to chill out and to hang out with friends. A chapel and rooms equipped with audio visual technology and comfortable relaxed seating are used for the formal prayer and teaching times. An effort is made not to create “classroom and school” environments. The number of meetings range from nearly daily to once a week depending on the location. In the Australian context – school facilities are used because of their large gyms and sports facilities and usually meetings are limited to a weekly gathering.
At the core of community is relationships. Core to the Preca Sacramental model are the leaders’ relationship with their God, the leaders’ relationships with the Members’ of the same community, the Preca Community relationship with the Parish, the leaders’ relationships with the candidates and their families. In their selfless giving and the joyful living – joining in sport, cracking of jokes, entertaining with tricks and games, singing, and all sorts of re-creative activities the catechists build meaningful relationships with the young people. Soon catechists become like second family, significant adults that young people look up to and trust enough to share their “joys and sorrows”.
The Preca sacramental program aims at running the sacramental preparatory session within an existing young faith community, typically a Preca Youth Group so that over time friendships are formed between the current group preparing for sacrament and previous groups who are now engaged with ongoing faith formation. It is this added relational dimension together with the relationship with the catechist that help young people to bridge the gap beyond Confirmation and continue attending to activities. The program needs to allow enough time for these relationships to form and strengthen. Typically this can take up to a year or more.
Formal sacramental catechesis happens during intermission from the re-creative time or during half-time in sports at the same time that fully initiated older children have their ongoing faith formation and prayer session. Preca catechesis is scripture based with an emphasis on forming a relationship with Jesus – whom is referred to as the ‘Beloved’ of God the Father. Unique to Preca is the emphasis on memorising gospel quotes, learning about the life of saints and praying around the cross. Preca embraces an incarnational spirituality where young people are invited to be missionary disciples of Jesus wherever they are.
Experience in the Australian challenging religious context proves the worth of the Preca Community contextualised sacramental model. Young people respond well to the care and love they expeience in their faith formation and tend to respond by hanging on and also by eventually giving something back to the community. Pioneering parish communities who are striving to engage youth might take elements of this model and adapt it to their particular circumstances. Surely it is worth trying if people are willing to put in the hard yakka (work).