“For God and for Youth, through Christ”

In the early days of the new Youth Department in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg Sr. Juliana Mary Abioye EHJ had inspiration to create a greeting among young Catholics of this diocese that could evolve into a tradition of shared faith, vision and passion. The phrase, “For God and for Youth, through Christ” then became our official motto and way of greeting the young people we serve in the Archdiocese.

In addition to that it very simply states what we stand for. We are first and foremost “For God”; we serve the Church because we know God and love God who “first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). Our existence and daily toil is rooted in awe and reverence for our One, True God. We do all we do for God’s greater glory.

We are also “for Youth”. Our focus and mission in the Church is toward young Christians and bringing them ever closer to Christ and thus life in its fullness (Jn 10:10). We are called by God to evangelise and catechise young people from diverse backgrounds and we do so with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the driving force and power of the Church.

Finally, we do what we do “through Christ”. Jesus Christ is the source and center of who we are and what we do. We are “Christian”, followers of the one Lord and Saviour, Christ – our way, truth and life (Jn 14:6).


November 2013 marked the re-opening of the current Catholic Youth Department of the Archdiocese of Johannesburg. The former Vicar, Fr. Rodney George OMI, and still current HOD and Coordinator, Sr. Juliana Mary Abioye EHJ, were the first to take up office. They were joined by Assistant Coordinator, Dillon Naicker, in February of 2014 who still holds the same office.

The initial years of this new beginning have involved picking up where the previous office left off, particularly in efforts to revive the Youth Forum, an Archdiocesan structure that creates a network of parishes and deaneries, connecting youth leaders and chaplains and aiding the Youth Department in being connected to and forming relationships with them across the Archdiocese. The Youth Forum Manual was developed and released in 2014 as a guide to this end.

The Department has also returned to the Youth Day traditions of gathering young Catholics under the event title, AJCYC (Archdiocese of Johannesburg Catholic Youth Conference). The first AJCYC, ‘My Command is This’, was hosted at Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale on 13 June 2015. AJCYC 2016, ‘Catholic Me’, took place at the Cathedral of Christ the King on 11 June. The then newly elected Auxiliary Bishop, Bp. Duncan Tsoke, presided at the opening Mass. AJYLC (Archdiocese of Johannesburg Youth Leaders’ Conference) was also instituted in 2016 for the training and formation of parish youth leaders. Four separate yet similar AJYLC events were hosted at selected parishes to accommodate the eight deaneries which were divided into four clusters in 2016.

The Youth Department has once again taken up the office of planning World Youth Day pilgrimages to various parts of the world with WYD 2016, Krakow having been its first project. Aspiring WYD pilgrims attend WYD Encounters (retreats, mini-pilgrimages, talks, etc.) on a quarterly basis in the years leading up to each respective WYD event. These Encounters are geared towards the spiritual and physical preparation of pilgrims. They are also platforms forming new friendships and creating a spiritual family of faith for pilgrims. On the 19th of July 2016 102 pilgrims from the Archdiocese departed for Krakow after being blessed at the airport by Archbishop Buti Tlhagale.

Finally, the Department has taken up new projects in developing original programs to aid young people in living out their Catholic faith. The two current projects are GIVE, devised and launched in Nov 2014, and Catholic ME, devised and launched in Nov 2015. Sources are provided in print and online, freely available for individuals to access and use in their parish ministries. In addition, parishes are able to order and purchase t-shirts that promote these projects.


Vision in the making

Looking at the historical background of young people in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg, we realize that the youth lack the capacity to become fully human. There is hence a need for holistic development.  As the SACBC Youth Office agrees:

“The National Youth Office is based on recommendations of the Youth Chaplains’ Conference of 1998 which formulated a basic youth structure for the Conference region. The vision statement says: “Because of the historical background of young people in South Africa, in society and within the local church, youth lacked the capacity to become fully human. They therefore need holistic development.” (Youth Office, 2014)

Following the Youth Synod 2008, the Archdiocese of Johannesburg seeks to promote the holistic development of young people in Christ. This development includes five pillars of growth, namely: physical, emotional, intellectual, socio-political and spiritual.

  1. Physical: health, work, sport, hygiene, environment, appearances
  2. Emotional/psychological: acceptance, human sexuality, self-esteem, integration of emotions
  3. Intellectual: sound knowledge, critical thinking, culture of education
  4. Socio-political: sense of belonging, responsibility for community, patriot, cultural values, awareness of justice,
  5. Spiritual: healing hearts, minds and spirits, restoration of hope

We can achieve this by motivating our young people to interact and to be at home with each other.
Adults should play an accompanying role by being present among them, listening to them and contributing to their holistic development.

Mission in the making

There is a need for an Archdiocesan Youth Department to co- ordinate, network and draw on the experience of the deanery structures and other youth bodies, and to put this information at the service of the youth in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg. A need for an archdiocesan youth structure that is functional and dynamic is recognised.

Developing Youth Spirituality

The youth of Johannesburg, in general, are pro-Church as opposed to being either indifferent or opposed. However, we note that many youth are joining other religious denominations, some which are not even Christian. Is the problem the Church itself or is it how we celebrate and express our faith within the Church i.e. is the functioning within the Church “youth friendly”? Pope John Paul II’s emphasis on ‘New Evangelisation’ plays a significant role. Dave Nodar writes:

When Pope John Paul II uses the term “a new evangelization” he does not mean a new message. “Evangelization cannot be new in its content since its very theme is always the one gospel given in Jesus Christ.”6 In its writings about evangelization the Church means most fundamentally the proclamation of the basic Christian message: salvation through Jesus Christ.7 On this foundation of the basic message of eternal life in God, John Paul II extends the notion of evangelization. He notes that there are a diversity of activities in the Church’s one mission. He states that evangelization should not be limited to individual unbelievers but also addressed to non-practicing Christians and to entire cultures (those that need re-evangelizing and those who do not yet believe in Christ).8 When the pope talks about evangelization that is new he states “evangelization can be new in its ardor, methods and expression.”9 It must be adapted to the people of our day …Within countries there are entire groups of the baptized who have lost a living sense of the faith, or no longer consider themselves members of the Church. “ln this case what is needed is a “new evangelization” or a “re-evangelization.”8 In this third situation people need to be socialized into situations of vibrant faith.19 Some need their faith to be renewed and enlivened. Others have had little or no training in the Christian faith and essentially need to be evangelized with the basic gospel and receive formation in the faith (catechesis). (Nodar, 2000)

The “evangelised >catechised > sacramentalised” process needs a form of revival. The Gospel has to be applied to the contemporary existence of the youth.

Youth spirituality will allow the youth a spiritual space where they can explore and experiment. They need a certain amount of freedom and openness in order to grow into a more mature faith integrating modern-day youth culture into essential liturgical acts and the gospel teaching.

Youth Evangelization as Holistic Youth Development: Evangelization for the new millennium would include a holistic integration of the institutional, social and spiritual dimensions of development.

Institutional development would include the Church promoting groups which encourage a positive self-image and outlook for young people. At the same time the Church needs to strengthen existing groups at the parish, tertiary, deanery and archdiocesan levels. Above all the Archdiocese needs to consider youth as priority within the local Church especially with regard to resources.

Social development promoted as ‘holistic development’ would include: ‘personal formation’ dealing with life skills, ‘happy togetherness’ programmes and ‘community awareness’ raising human rights issues, HIV/AIDS, sexuality and substance abuse. The issue of peer-to peer ministry development especially in light of a multi-cultural society should be encouraged.

Spiritual development would start from the young person’s perspective including attempts to address the hunger for meaning. This is the most essential development level for the young as it involves the beginnings of their life-long journey with their Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Adult supporters, parish priests, religious and chaplains should encourage a reflective prayerful life integrated with study of the Word, Christian fellowship and service, and all the Sacraments of the Catholic Church. The youth must be taught that Life and the Faith are interdependent.


A solution that arises from this identified need is the establishment of a Youth Forum. This forum serves essential purposes within the entire youth body of the Archdiocese of Johannesburg. It aims to:

  • Unify all youth within the archdiocese, creating a network out of every parish in every deanery, with the central hub of this network being the Youth Office
  • Yield a platform on and from which to establish, improve, form, monitor and utilize youth structures and bodies from archdiocesan right down to parish level
  • Allow for leadership development opportunities for the youth
  • Pave the way for a vibrant and functional archdiocesan youth body
  • Promote systematic and spiritual governance

Does your parish have a copy of our Youth Forum Manual? Copies are available and can be ordered online or purchased directly from the Youth Department.