October Synod Connects to Youth
Fr. Larry Chapman
“Fifteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops: On Young People, The Faith, and Vocational Discernment.” Did you get that title? What a mouthful!
The Catholic Church never means to be casual or unintellectual in its pursuit of the truth. As the entire family of God, we all try to better seek out, understand, and express to others the mysteries of God’s intimacy with the entire human race and each person God has created. To do that sometimes does require long, detailed and fancy titled events.
So a little background. Way back in 1965, at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI recognized that renewal of the Church is a constant, on-going challenge, but also a movement of the Holy Spirit that calls us to keep attentive to the “signs of the times.” He called for and established a regular process of gathering representatives of the world’s bishops every few years to address specific challenges, opportunities, and graces that arise across the entire world-wide family of the Church.
Pope Benedict XVI envisioned these gatherings to be expressions of moral unity, leading to helpful updating of the Church’s teachings in all kinds of areas of life. Pope Francis has changed some of the procedures, making them more open to the entire Church. Although these remain primarily meetings of world bishops, he is calling for input from any and all believers (and even non-believers!) by means of on-line questionnaires. Pope Francis has made these gatherings a more permanent fixture of the Catholic Church going forward through the twenty-first century and beyond.
From October 3 through October 28 this year, the next Synod of Bishops from around the world will take place in Rome. The topic is the second part of the title above: “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.” Representatives of the world’s bishops, listening to input from people of all ages but especially those 16 to 29 years of age will gather for prayerful discernment of the movement of the Holy Spirit throughout the Church.
What does it mean to be Church in this real world in 2018 and beyond? From their deliberations, a teaching response to all kinds of issues the world faces will be announced with the desire to be a message of renewal and hope to believers and nonbelievers alike.
A little bit about that questionnaire, since the kinds of questions the Church is asking its young people to reflect on can show you the focus of the gathering.
- The questionnaire was issued in spring 2018 and offered 53 mostly multiple-choice questions covering attitudes and opinions about oneself and the world; influences and relationships; life choices; religion, faith and church; and internet use.
- It asked questions about living arrangements; self-image; best age to leave home and have a family; measures of success; sources of positive influence; level of confidence in public and private institutions; and political and social activism.
- It ended with two open-ended questions asking the respondent how the Catholic Church can accompany young people in their life choices, and to say something about oneself not raised in the other questions.
Do you think the Church is asking at least some of the right questions? How would you respond?
Something else I find fascinating about this gathering. There will be a rotation of four Cardinals who will chair the meetings. While I don’t recognize any of these four names, I find the places they serve, and therefore the representation they bring to this conference and to all of us as Church, eye-opening. They are Cardinals Louis Sako of Baghdad, Iraq (the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch); Desire Tsarahazana of Madagascar; Charles Bo of Myanmar; and John Ribat of Papua New Guinea. How’s that for an international perspective?
So, stay tuned to listen for any news reports, interviews, reactions from this gathering. Students enrolled in our high school faith formation program will be exploring the synod during their classes this month. And why not pray that we may all keep our hearts and minds open to the renewed presence of the Holy Spirit?
Here are some online resources for more information about the Synod:
- Official Synod Website – http://www.synod2018.va/content/synod2018/en.html
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – http://www.usccb.org/about/bishops-and-dioceses/synod-of-bishops/synod-2018/index.cfm
- National Catholic Reporter – https://www.ncronline.org/
- America Magazine articles – https://www.americamagazine.org/topic/synod-young-adults
- We’ll post articles about the Synod on the parish Facebook site. https://www.facebook.com/StSebsMKE