Always good for a provocation

60 years ago, the Federation of German Catholic Youth was founded in East Westphalia. The time of major confrontations may be over, but the BDKJ is still considered rebellious and reform-oriented – and some wish it would act more piously. Because the youth still wants more than the adults are willing to give.

Founded in 1947 in Hardehausen in eastern Westphalia, Germany The umbrella body of currently 15 Catholic youth associations with a total of around 650.The BDKJ, which has a membership of more than 000, has become a spearhead for a greater say in society and the church, and insists on changes in areas such as ecumenism, sexuality and the position of women. The association was founded 60 years ago and celebrates its anniversary at the general meeting in Altenberg, Germany.Social influence was already at stake when the association was founded in 1947 in Hardehausen, East Westphalia. At that time, however, the founders were clearly leaning toward the "C" parties. After the Godesberg Program of 1959, with which the SPD also approached churches and Catholics, the BDKJ also opened up to the left spectrum. Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik and the Warsaw Treaty in particular met with a positive response. Provocation: Consecration of women priests The BDKJ reached a critical limit in 1994, when it provoked the church leadership with its petition against the papal no to the ordination of women priests. The former organizational unity of the BDKJ and the bishops' office for youth pastoral care (afj) was subsequently disentangled. The dust has long since settled, and there has even been a closing of ranks with the bishops, as in the case of the commitment to combating youth unemployment. Within the BDKJ, there is also a growing awareness that the association does not represent all Catholic young people. There are numerous groups in the parishes that are not affiliated with the association, and nearly 400.000 altar boys.The BDKJ, which has its headquarters in Dusseldorf and a lobby office in Berlin, sees itself as a youth-political interest group that is committed, among other things, to fair trade, lowering the voting age and fighting child poverty. This is accompanied by projects such as the carol singing campaign for children in developing countries or the voluntary social year.

Life of faith plays a role again But those responsible are also aware that there is a great longing for a spiritual-religious life of faith. That is why the youth umbrella organization participated intensively in the World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, which was planned as a celebration of faith. In a more recent key point paper, it is stated: "In addition to helping to shape society and the church, the association is also characterized by prayer and worship. In this sense, the BDKJ participates in the ecumenical Stations of the Cross for young people or the prayer hour for the World Day of Peace.

Worries about new blood Despite all its activities, the BDKJ, like many other social organizations, is concerned about the future of the association in view of demographic change. That's why he's launching a youth association offensive to mark the anniversary. Title: "Heaven sends us. Catholic youth associations make future."The goal is to raise awareness of member associations and their work, and to attract new audiences.In order to better address the younger generation, the association has also commissioned a study with the aid organization Misereor. It aims to examine the attitudes and desires of 7- to 27-year-olds toward religion and the church. BDKJ spokesman Michael Kreuzfelder: "If we really want to reach young people, we have to deal offensively with our own basic principles and reposition ourselves in youth pastoral ministry."

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Christina Cherry
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