On Youth Day in South Africa, Catholic Bishop Emphasizes Need to Listen to Young People

Bishop Siphiwo Paul Vanqa of South Africa's Queenstown Diocese. Credit: Courtesy Photo

On the occasion of the annual National Youth Day in South Africa marked on June 16, a Catholic Bishop in the country has underscored the need for youth Chaplains, Parish Priests, and the adult Laity to accompany young people, listening to them.

In an interview with ACI Africa, the Liaison Bishop for the Youth Office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) said young people have “a lot of problems”, which need to be addressed.  

“Young people need to see somebody close to them; they need to see us. They need to see us being part and parcel of them; they need somebody to listen to them,” Bishop Siphiwo Paul Vanqa said during the Wednesday, June 15 interview. 

Bishop Vanqa added that as part of the activities aimed at supporting young people, Catholilc Dioceses in Southern Africa “should have budgets for youth, for the chaplains to work with youth, to accompany the youth, at school level and tertiary level.”

“Dioceses should avail some funds to support youth programs,” the Bishop of South Africa’s Queenstown Diocese said. 


He added, “There’re a lot of problems that young people have; they need somebody to talk to, to listen to them, somebody that feels their frustrations and pain. And we can only do that if we avail ourselves to them and avail ourselves for their needs as well.”

The member of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (Pallottines) went on to say that the responsibility of accompanying youth people is not only for youth chaplains and Priests, but also to lay people who work with young people.

“We have lay people in our Dioceses that are working with the youth. We need such people, because the youth are crying in need of them, in need of Priests to be part of their growth,” the South African Catholic Bishop said.

He went on to highlight challenges young people face saying, “Some of the problems that the youth have is that they don't have people at home to listen to them, to counsel them, to give them encouragement. The chaplains could be those people. We need to put our efforts together in order to give support, to give hope, to re-energize the youth.”

Every June 16, South Africans honor young people who lost their lives in the 1976 Soweto Uprising, which saw hundreds of protestors, most of them students, lose their lives in the hands of the colonial administration. 

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The annual event that is also known as the International Day of the African Child (DAC) honors the youthful students who were protesting against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in school. 

In the June 15 interview, the Local Ordinary of Queenstown Diocese told ACI Africa that many black South African youths still struggle to access education.

He said, “In my own province, some children struggle to get to school because there are no bridges or proper roads; they have to travel long distances to get to school. There is transport, but sometimes families have no means to pay for the transport.”

The 67-year-old South African Bishop expressed concern about the safety of the students who have to travel long distances to get to school, saying, “Many school learners become victims of road accidents. Just yesterday in Port St. John’s, about six school children died because of a truck that veered off the road and plowed on the learners.”

On June 14, students from the Ndamase Senior Primary School in Ngqeleni, Eastern Cape, were involved in a road accident that claimed the lives of six.  


“It hurts,” the Catholic Bishop who has been at the helm of Queenstown Diocese since May 2021 said in reference to the June 14 accident.

Lack of attention and care for young people manifests a destructive church, he said, and explained in reference to the youth, “As Pope Francis would say, this is the Church that is being annihilated, and therefore how best can we help them?”

The member of the Pallottines said SACBC members “know and see the difficulties” that the youth in Southern Africa face, and added, “As religious, as the church members, we should be giving an ear to our young people just to listen to them, to pray with them.”

The “small gesture” of listening to the youth “helps to alleviate a lot of frustration,” Bishop Vanqa told ACI Africa June 15, adding, “We must be able to be part and parcel of their struggle.”

Young people, the Liaison Bishop for the Youth Office of SACBC said, “need only accompaniment; we may not have the money or the financial means, but if we avail ourselves, that I think counts a lot to them and they need that.”

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Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.