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January 26, 2022
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January 26, 2022

Synod with Youth

From The Office of Youth Ministry

Synod 2021–2023 is upon us. Synod teams have met, plans are being conceived and executed, and we are beginning to see the spread of information around the idea of synodality.

The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has been focused on helping us to understand that this time in the Church’s history is focused on listening to each other.

“…the objective of the current Synod is to listen, as the entire People of God, to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church. We do so by listening together to the Word of God in Scripture and the living Tradition of the Church, and then by listening to one another, and especially to those at the margins, discerning the signs of the times.”

Often, when the Church references those at the margins, it conjures up visions of the poor or destitute, or persons who possess an ideological difference to the Catholic faith.

The second most consistently mentioned group is the young. This Synod provides us with an opportunity to evaluate the way we integrate young people into the Life of the Church.

Prior to this Synod, the Vatican released two documents that were pivotal to understanding how to engage youth of the 21st century. Christus Vivit – the Apostolic Exhortation emanating from the Synod on Youth, and Synodality and the Life and Mission of the Church, were adopted as guiding documents for the Ministry to adolescents and young adults.

Both documents provide new language for us to use that should open our minds and hearts to a deeply authentic and Holy Spirit-led way of engaging young people.

Even the use of the word ‘engage’ should challenge us, bringing us to reflect on how we currently interact with young people.

This journey of walking with our youth, the unchurched, the un-gospelled, and the ones we see in the pews every week begins with accepting realities.

  1. Young people will communicate in ways that make many of us uncomfortable.
  2. Young people have been communicating their joys and their disappointments, but we have not always noticed or considered that their habits communicate what their mouths do not.
  3. Young people are their own agents of change, even if they don’t already know it.

Out of the Synod on Youth this quote emerged: The Synod recognised that the members of the Church do not always take the approach of Jesus. Rather than listening to young people attentively, “all too often, there is a tendency to provide prepackaged answers and ready-made solutions, without allowing their real questions to emerge and facing the challenges they pose”. Yet once the Church sets aside narrow preconceptions and listens carefully to the young, this empathy enriches her, for “it allows young people to make their own contribution to the community, helping it to appreciate new sensitivities and to consider new questions”.

This Synod provides us with an opportunity to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the questions we ask and the way we respond to all our youth. Even the kindest among us, or the most seasoned leader, will know that there is a way in which our responses to the needs of youth, have been slow, halfhearted, and poorly explained. In other scenarios, young people have noticed that the responses given may not reflect habits and behaviours they see in the lives of the People of God.

Simultaneously, young people are also challenged to engage the Church, to actively demonstrate their commitment to God and Church through participation in the Synod. This will require every gift and fruit of the Spirit.

All youth are encouraged to pray for all the graces and mercies to engage the laity and hierarchy of the Church. As the Now of God [Christus Vivit §64] youth have as much right and responsibility to walk with the rest of the People of God.

Where does this leave us?

Over the next couple of months as we answer the big question posed to us during the Synod, the Office of Youth Ministry has one more question to ask you:

“What must I do (yes, you) to allow young people to experience the wonder of God during this process?”