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Engaging youth in church

Tuesday 17 January 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Culture, National

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Engaging youth in church
St Therese Parishioners from Mitiaro: Rangi Kimioa (left), Teremoana Pukeiti, catechist - Kaukura Kaiui, Cecelia Kimiora Samuel, Tuavai Tereapii and Alone Samuel (front). 23011401

The declining numbers of Catholics in the Cook Islands is one of the several issues facing the church which needs urgent attention.

Key issues have been identified and discussed at the Catholic Diocese Synod Forum 2023 which ran last week from January 8 to 15 at the St Joseph’s Cathedral parish.

Catholic youth participated in discussions which included challenges young people are struggling to cope with these days.

Rangi Kimiora, a passionate youth member from the St Therese Parish on the island of Mitiaro, was pleased to be given the opportunity to participate in the forum on Rarotonga.

“We discussed some of the solutions to help increase or uplift the number of people in the church, especially our youth,” Kimiora said.

“I believe we need to engage more of the youth into the church services rather than just having the same older people.”

Music speaks to the youth and it’s better to engage the youth by utilising their talent through music, especially in the small parishes, says Kimiora.

“Another means we discussed is to get out there into the community and evangelise, and visit those Catholics who are still stranded at home to help rebuild their faith.


Delegates from the Pa Enua attended the Catholic Diocese Synod Forum 2023 held last week. 23011402

“And to have leaders that are of a similar age to the youth who will have more of an understanding rather than having older or elderly people all the time to lead the youth.”

Kimiora says he understands that nowadays the older style of teaching doesn’t really work with young people who sometimes take offense.

He was brought up and taught by his elders, and is proud to have kept his faith.

“I believe that God is the same every day, and one key thing is I have always loved my faith since I was small and I know that I have been through steps that my ancestors have taught me – through the tough way to become a good person in the church.”

With a population of under 200, Mitiaro’s St. Therese Parish has around 35 active members. Five of its members attended the Synod Forum – catechist Kaukura Kaiui, chairman Tuavai Tereapii, Rangi Kimiora, Teremoana Pukeiti and Cecelia Samuel.

Sixty-six-year-old Kaiui started his catechist training – a person of faith called to hand on the living tradition and teachings of the Catholic Church – in 1980 on Rarotonga, delivered by the late Father John.

This coming April will be his 40th year as a catechist and over the years he has noted depopulation on the island which has affected the Parish. This has resulted in some changes to their church services.

Kaiui says a welcoming addition to its church services and activities is the assistance from the parishioners who take on the responsibilities during the week.

He explains the low number of members is due to depopulation.

Chairman of St Therese, Tuavai Tereapii agree. “In the past there were many of us living on Mitiaro, many of our people left to go to Rarotonga or overseas for work.”


Delegates from the Pa Enua join in the presentations at the Catholic Diocese Synod Forum 2023 last week. 23011403

St Therese has around 20 youth and Tereapii is pleased to say they all work together with everyone in the Parish bringing more music into the church.

“We even have a sound system, we know music is important to our youth,” he added.

“Other youth on the island also join in the church activities and we welcome their support and help,” said Tereapii.

The Catholic Diocese Synod Forum 2023 had 120 parishioners participating from Rarotonga and the Pa Enua.

Participants from the Pa Enua started returning to their home islands yesterday.

The closing mass for the Synod Forum was held on Sunday morning at the St Joseph’s Cathedral, followed by the unveiling ceremonies for Monsignor Bernadino Castanie and Father Damien Marinus.