Lessons for church in Thailand cave rescue?

The dramatic, improbable, and some would say miraculous rescue of the boys’ soccer team and their coach from flooded caves in Thailand earlier this month will be studied for decades as a model of a diverse group coming together for an urgent, common cause. Lessons that apply far beyond cave rescues abound in areas including organization, decisive leadership, sacrifice, resilience, courage, trust, the need for expertise to achieve success, and the value of each human life.

What if we view the rescue as a metaphor of the Catholic Church’s efforts to save our young people from darknesses surrounding them in today’s world? What can we learn that might help us be more successful with youth in our parishes, our schools, our diocese, and beyond?

To rescue the soccer players, the divers personally accompanied them out — indeed were tethered to the boys. How committed are we to personally accompany our Catholic youth as they negotiate the challenges they face in daily life?

The cave rescue team came from all around the world. How can our families, parishes, and schools better pool and share their gifted catechists, youth ministers, and other resources?

Many factors led to a sense of urgency in Thailand. Do we have the urgency to better mobilize in the face of increasing numbers of young people leaving the church, many in their teen years?

Those are just a few of the questions that can be asked — and indeed are being asked as the global church puts a focus throughout 2018 on the needs of young people leading up to a monthlong Synod of Bishops on the topic in October.

There were real heroes in the Thailand rescue. Our diocese, its parishes, schools, and families can point to a long list of heroes in reaching young people with the Light of Christ through the years. But we can always do better, and must always recommit with each generation. Perhaps the cave rescue offers a teachable, inspirational moment. — Thomas J. Dermody

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