31st Sunday in OT (B)
October 26, 2021
29 years of Eucharistic Adoration at St Ann’s
October 26, 2021

‘Young people want to be listened to’

– AEC President, youth leaders discuss Synod 2021–2023

Why a synod on synodality? “This is a very interesting question, and I’m sure it is a question that is going through the minds of many people,” said the President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) during a Facebook live conversation, October 15.

“But I think what the Holy Father invites us to is to try to rediscover the real nature of the Church. That is, of course, saying as if we have not lived up to it in the past, but there is a dimension to it that’s very important to realise…that it’s calling the entire Church to journey together,” Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau told host, AEC General Secretary Fr Donald Chambers.

Joining the discussion were Taresa Best Downes, Episcopal Delegate for Youth, Archdiocese of Port of Spain, and Miriam Juarez of the Diocese of Belize City, Belmopan.

Asked to share her thoughts on how the synod will impact youth and laity in particular, Best Downes replied that the intentions of the synodal journey is that the young Church will become more active, and for young persons in the Church and those on the peripheries to feel more directly listened to as part of the process.

“We do have to really expend ourselves to ensure that we are listening and listening appropriately. And so, it is important if we are keeping the impact and the goal in mind which is, as bishop (Malzaire) said, journeying together or working with, then we should be clear in our minds that the impact we desire is actually to experience one another and that means not being afraid to experience young people for all of the things we say about them.”

Best Downes asserted that there is a desire from the AEC bishops to really see young people in the church and for them to also see themselves as a necessary and valuable part of the Church.

In sharing some insight from her involvement in the synodal process, Juarez said there has been challenges, but overall, it has been a “blessing”. She said that many young persons ask many things, among them, to be listened to.

“But in being listened to, we also expect to listen to others and that’s not something easy. …there’s a technical component and spiritual realm to it because listening to someone takes on sharing faith and experience and I think that having that love for neighbour and for oneself and God, are essential parts of the listening process,” she explained.

Best Downes said if persons are not participating in the synodal process, then there is no capacity for them to experience communion and mission.

She further opined that those involved in Church ought to recognise their responsibility of extending an opportunity of participation to others. She then likened the ongoing synodal journey to that of Israelites leaving the desert. She said while it may “look pretty” as a movie, it was not an easy journey.

“It first starts with participation, participation that is grounded in prayer, empathy and the Fruits of the Spirit…This will not be an easy journey and we, on some level, have to accept that this is going be difficult. We may hear and experience things we don’t want to experience but we also have to come to terms with, because that’s the definition of the Christian journey itself,” Best Downes said.


Not just a talk shop

In sharing his perspective on this, Bishop Malzaire saw “multiple” challenges in the process. He said it had to do with one’s perception of reality. “We will say we have done that before; we have done that route… we’ve had many synods before. We asked ourselves what have come of out of those.”

The Bishop identified persons have some level of fear that the experience will become a “talk shop”, a forum for persons to gripe and share their frustrations of the Church.

He pinpointed other considerations, in that some persons feel they do not have enough time to experience all that is needed to discuss. “After we have put all the recommendations together, people might be wondering ‘Is anything going to come out of this?’ ‘Are we really going to achieve the goal we set aside?’.”

Despite the challenges and concerns, Bishop Malzaire sees the synodal journey as a glimmer of hope. “If the Spirit is at the centre of it and we are determined to listen to the voice of the Spirit, I think the sky is the limit. Within that aspect of the Spirit is the aspect of the listening part. Are we going to dispose ourselves sufficiently to listen?”