We Are Preparing For The 2018 Synod On Young People
Following up on the 2014 and 2015 Synods of Bishops, with focus on the Family, Pope Francis has set in motion his plans to convene the next Synod of Bishops in October 2018 with the following theme: Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. This will be the 15th Synod convened since Pope Paul VI established such gatherings of bishops in September 1965. Already, the Holy See has published a Preparatory Document in order to share some initial research findings and reflection as well as to gather further information from dioceses and various groups around the world to assist in shaping the focus, study and dialogue at the 2018 Synod on Young People.
I have asked our Diocesan Director of Youth and Young Adults, Mr. Steve Dabrowski, to spearhead the gathering and summarizing of information in response to the questions that have been presented to us by the Preparatory Document. Members of other Diocesan Offices—such as the Offices of Catechesis, Catholic Charities, Catholic Education and Vocations—will be assisting him in this process. No doubt, Mr. Dabrowski will be calling on clergy, religious and laity (youth and adults) to share their thoughts, hopes and concerns. We have until 15 September, 2017, to submit our response.
This focus on Young People is most timely, and a worthy follow-up to the Synods on the Family. In his 2016 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love; On Love in the Family”), Pope Francis devoted a great deal of his reflection on children and youth. He reiterated the Church’s longstanding teaching that children are a gift to marriage and family (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2378). He emphasized the “primary right” and “most serious duty” of parents to educate their children (cf. #84) In Chapter 6 of his Apostolic Exhortation, titled “Some Pastoral Perspectives,” the Holy Father stresses the indispensable value of the family on character, wellbeing and the developmental process of young people toward adulthood. In this chapter, there is mention of the invaluable pastoral resources available for marriages and families in various circumstances and situation. Chapter 7 is dedicated to the formation and education of children. Throughout “The Joy of Love,” Pope Francis evidences great affection, concern and hope for young people. Clearly, his desire is for the holistic wellbeing of young people; morally, spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and physically.
I am always impressed with the young people I meet around the diocese, especially for Confirmation, school liturgies and various church-related events such as Source Summit. Yet, there are so many young people who are not actively engaged in their Catholic faith and parish. While there have been many wonderful opportunities and even blessings from the tremendous advances in technology, there are also great pitfalls and dangers. Many people spend a great deal of time in “virtual reality.” The so-called digital age has brought practically everything to our fingertips, which is having detrimental impacts on families, parishes, neighborhoods and other forms of community. This has contributed in part to the growing sense of people claiming to be “spiritual but not religious.” In essence, the effects of radical individualism have devalued any notion of the common good or sense of community. As we further deny the reality of our interdependence upon God, others and creation, more and more individuals are experiencing overwhelming loneliness, fear, low self-esteem, guilt and despair.
Young people are indeed gift to families, parishes, neighborhoods, schools and all forms of community. Young people are vital to culture and society. Young people are vital to the mission of Jesus Christ and His Church. Both the Church and society draw strength and inspiration from the energy, enthusiasm, perspective and talent of young people. The Church, like the family and society, needs young people. Just as true, however, is the fact that young people need the Church as well as family and society. Human beings are not completely independent. We are interdependent upon God, one another and creation for life, happiness, peace and wellbeing.
Here in the month of March we are on the verge of spring, the time of new life and new growth. It is a time to plant and take in the signs of new birth in flowers, plants, trees and creatures of all kinds. We should have such appreciation for the springtime of youth in our Church, society and families. I invite you to join me in prayer for our young people, for the process of discernment going on in our Church toward the 2018 Synod on Young People, and for God’s blessing on Pope Francis as he strives to engage us all into a greater sense of dialogue, accompaniment, respect and appreciation for the joy of faith, life and relationships. In Jesus Christ, we are called to communion with God and each other.