As we are just barely into 2017, we might consider it too soon to think about 2018. But the Church is already preparing for an important gathering, a gathering that will greatly shape the future of the Church, and young people are an integral part of that meeting
Last month, Pope Francis wrote a letter to all the young people of the Church, enlisting their help in prepaing the worldwide church for an important Synod of Bishops. The synod, which is basically a meeting of bishops with the Holy Father on a specific matter to determine the Church’s course of action for the future, will take place in October 2018.
The theme of the 2018 Synod is “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” Understandably, I am excited about this theme, because I believe it is a crucial issue in the Church, both in the United States and around the world. In his letter, Pope Francis reminded us that during the last World Youth Day, “I asked you several times: ‘Can we change things?’ And you shouted: ‘yes!’” He wrote that, “A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity.”
To ensure the Synod’s success, the Church is already preparing for and encouraging its members to gather information to be discussed at that meeting. In the Preparatory Document for the Synod, being distributed to the worldwide Church, it says, “the Church has decided to examine herself on how she can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to the fullness of life and love, and to ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective ways to announce the Good News today.”
Pope Francis and the Church want to hear from young people, especially. The Church, Pope Francis wrote, “wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls.”
By listening to youths’ aspirations, “the Church can glimpse the world which lies ahead and the paths the Church is called to follow,” according to the Preparatory Document.
The document asks the worldwide Church to engage young people in a number of questions in order to listen, discover and learn from the young people today.
Some of the questions are general, including:
• What are the main challenges and most significant opportunities for young people in your country today?
• What kinds and places of group gatherings of youth, institutionalized or otherwise, have a major success within the Church, and why?
Additionally, the document asks questions that are specific to each region, including:
• How does your community care for young people who experience extreme violence and accompany them in various ways in their life?
• What formation is offered to support the engagement of young people in society and civil life, for the common good?
• In a world which is greatly secularized, what pastoral activities are most effective for continuing the journey of faith after the Sacraments of Christian Initiation?”
A few questions that are not in the document that I might ask my readers are:
• Has anyone encouraged you to consider a vocation to the priesthood or brotherhood?
• If so, who?
• Does your parish offer any vocation discernment programs?
• Does your school, youth group or sacrament preparation classes discuss religious vocations?
• Have you ever been invited to a program where you had the opportunity to meet with priests, brothers or seminarians where you could ask questions about religious life?
Pray, listen, reflect, contemplate, dialogue, discern. We need your help to make this a meaningful and effective Synod. How can young people in the Church today recognize their call to love and announce the Good News today? We can change things but only through full participation of everyone.
Read the Holy Father’s letter below.