Synod of Bishops is listening to young people

Pope Francis has convened a Synod of Bishops in Rome to discuss the church’s ministry and outreach to young people. What are your thoughts on the synod?

The Holy Father is very sincere and intentional in that he wants to listen directly to the youth – to listen to where they are in their daily lives, where they are in their lives of faith, what they think about the church, how they relate to God and also how they can be encouraged in their spiritual life and in their discerning what God is calling them to do in terms of a vocation to marriage and family life, to religious life and, perhaps, to the single way of life. Pope Francis is also wants to know how the church can help young people discern their professions – choosing a profession where they can make a difference.

A lot of preliminary work has gone into the synod.

Yes. Pope Francis hosted a pre-synod meeting in March with 300 young people from around the world. One of the three participants from the United States was Katie Prejean McGrady of Lake Charles. Katie is a young wife, a new mother, a youth minister and a popular speaker who has worked with many youth and young adult communities across the country. She and the two other representatives from our country reported back to the entire body of U.S. bishops in June, and I was very much impressed with what they had to say and how seriously they had taken their responsibilities. We asked them questions for 90 minutes, and we also had a chance to talk to them privately. The Vatican also received input on the synod topics from young people around the world. Young people in the Archdiocese of New Orleans sent feedback to Rome by answering questionnaires and filling out online surveys. More than 220,000 people filled out the online questionnaires – including 100,000 young people between the ages of 16-29. More than half of the respondents were between the ages of 16 to 19. The Holy Father asked the young people to talk about their experience of God, the church and what their hopes and dreams were.

So the pope is very engaged in the synod discussions.

He will attend the entire synod, and he wants to listen. He wants to hear where the young people are and then ask them what more the church can do for them. He wants to know their image  of the church that’s not being realized. He wants to know their hopes and dreams. In the pre-synod session, he also invited people of other religions and even non-believers, because he wants to hear from all young people in order to move forward. Pope Francis has cited the inspiration of Blessed Pope Paul VI, who called on young people “to be open to the world, to listen to and serve their sisters and brothers, to fight against egoism, to refuse to give free course to the instincts of violence and hatred, which beget wars and all the train of miseries.” 

Pope Paul VI wanted young people to be “generous, pure, respectful and sincere and to build an enthusiasm, a better world than (their) elders had.”

Some bishops called for Pope Francis to postpone the synod because of the sex abuse crisis.

We are living in challenging times in the church, particularly for us in the United States. But the ministry of Jesus Christ has to continue. To interrupt the ministry of Jesus would be a lack of faith in Jesus. It would be a hopeless response. So, while we are dealing with the challenges that we have to deal with – and we’re doing that honestly – the ministry of Jesus, what we do throughout the archdiocese and in parishes and archdiocesan offices, has to continue. There are some who are spending a great deal of time and energy and prayer on the challenges of sexual abuse, but we can’t interrupt the ministry of Christ to deal with this and this alone. I liken it to when there is a crisis in the family. You have to deal with the crisis, but the family has to eat, kids have to go to school and people have to go to work.

Have you been impressed with our local youth and young adult ministry?

Very much so. The work done by Timmy McCaffery and his staff at our Youth and Young Adult Ministry office has been extraordinarily positive. As we know, whatever we do on an archdiocesan level becomes reality and touches hearts in parishes and in schools. We are calling our youth and young adults to grow closer to Christ and to know him better and to live a life that expresses that belief. I salute the priests, deacons and religious, and, in a particular way, the lay people, the volunteers, because they give so much time and energy in this ministry. Most youth ministers do not receive any kind of salary. They do it out of the goodness of their hearts and as a way to serve God. They are helping form our youth and young adults in the ways of Christ. They are introducing them to Jesus at a deeper, more intimate level.

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