Synod on Youth 2018
An estimated 300 young people from around the world will come to the Vatican March 19 - 24 for a week-long conference to prepare for the October meeting of Catholic bishops on issues facing the young today. But other young people can participate in this meeting via Facebook. The October Synod of bishops will be held between 3 and 28 October 2018 on the theme: "Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment." Cardinal Baldisseri, who heads the Vatican's synod office, said the March pre-synod event will help the bishops direct their preparations for the later meeting. "We are not speaking only 'about' them but 'with' them: They will speak to us with their own language, their own enthusiasm, their sensibility....In short, even through the new technologies of communication, the pre-synod meeting wants to broaden as much as possible the audience of young people involved so that no one should feel excluded," Cardinal Baldisseri said.
"This is a step the Church is making to listen to all youth," said Stella Marilene Nishimwe, a participant in the pre-synod gathering. "It will give us an opportunity to say everything that we think. This is an opportunity that we must really take."
A young Burundi woman living in Italy, Nishimwe told journalists that she believes the March gathering is "something that God wants from the Church, to do something new for all the youth of the world."
"Because youth from all over the world, whether they are Catholics or from other religions, have the same questions," she said, adding that she thinks it is important that the Church wants to walk with young people "in this world with so much pain, with so many questions that don't have answers."
The pre-synod meeting will give young people - those present in Rome and those online via Facebook - an opportunity to interact with Pope Francis and ask him some questions. The participants will then be split into groups based on the languages they speak and will be asked to discuss specific topics in view of creating a final document from their meeting.
Sign up on Facebook
So, Millennials, don't miss this opportunity of a lifetime. Go now to sign up on Facebook and make your voices heard online at this important meeting. Don't let the Vatican operatives do an end-run around your parents. Take this opportunity to let Church leaders know what you want and need from the Church. Our fear, well founded based on research, is that the deck is being stacked with obedient "yes, father" youth to be the attendees sent by Bishops Conferences worldwide to the Pre-Synod meeting in March and the Synod on Youth scheduled for October 2018. If there is to be any change in the Church, if we are to return to the spirit of Vatican II and the message of Jesus Christ that love is the fulfilling of the law [Romans13: 8-10], we need many more young people to speak up and respond to Francis's outreach. It is crucial that the voices of young people reach the special meeting called by the Holy Father this March in preparation for the Synod on youth in October. Learn more about this meeting and learn more about signing up on Facebook.
Where are the young people today?
In an NCR article, it is reported that a study asks: Why are young Catholics going, going, gone? It is a well-known fact that vast numbers of young people have turned away from the Church. Why? Because they are more open to a rapidly changing world, having grown up in it without the prejudices of prior generations. From this vantage point, they see the grace of God in fresher and more vibrant terms than a Church governed by older generations. Whether it's feelings of being judged by religious leaders who don't know or understand them, or being forced by their parents to attend church, or witnessing the sexual abuse scandal and the hypocrisy of church hierarchy, young people are expressing a desire both to break free from organized religion and to be part of a community. From the perspective of those of us interested in bringing about needed reform in the church, there are certain topics that Church hierarchy noticeably avoids, particularly those directly related to:
- right of the members to participate in the decision-making of the Church
- welcoming of all to the Eucharist recognizing it as a sacrament of healing not reward.
- treatment of the LGBT community
- equality of women in the Church
- sexual abuse issue by Catholic priests
- responsible parenthood vs. the prohibition of artificial contraception
- couples living together prior to marriage
- couples entering into inter-faith relationships
This is a time for bringing these and other issues up that represent the wants and needs of youth today.
Mumbai is a city that never sleeps. It is the industrial capital of India and much of the international business and offices are situated in the city, employing staff that are familiar with or getting familiar with the international culture. The lifestyle is fast and highly competitive for young professionals. With unforgiving workplaces that often result in people working anywhere between 8 to 14 hours a day mostly six days a week, young adults are quickly moving towards a burnout at an earlier stage of their lives. Thus, the underlying stress only seems to get carried over every weekend and entertainment or social networking becomes an easy outlet.
Amid all this, religion, faith and the family have a great potential to bring a balance in the lives of young people. However, many Christian youth in Mumbai are disillusioned by what is offered by the institution of the Catholic Church. I worked with youth for years as a student and a young professional and have had such discussions with numerous colleagues, classmates and neighbours. For this report, I invited over 20 youth to answer the questionnaire, and while all were interested, only eight could make enough time to answer a few questions and present their views about the Catholic Church. Most of the respondents informed me that they did not attend Mass regularly. They respected the Institution of the Church but could not relate to its current way of functioning. While all attended Mass regularly with their families when they were children, this practice has waned for most of them. Some found peace and solace in the quiet at home rather than the repetitive ceremony at Mass, while others found peace in the atmosphere of their church. Some attend only because they want to spend that time with the family or because of familial pressure (in Asia, most young adults either live with their parents or in-laws in a joint family system). Considering the stressful work life in Mumbai, some respondents simply chose to rest on Sunday. Mass isn’t the only place we find God. Sunday School prepared us to understand our faith, yet, it was better understood when we made our own inward journeys, analysed what we learned and applied it in our lives. Because of this, the compulsion or the dependence on Sunday Mass is reduced and we continue to live Christian lives and only attend Mass when our minds and bodies are prepared for it and are capable of making it a complete spiritual experience.
From the responses, it is evident that the youth feel that the church refuses to move with the times. However, all agreed that they noticed attempts by the hierarchy of the Church to catch up with the modern times (such as equality in the washing of the feet, mercy towards refugees, etc.), although the traditions still remain medieval. We have observed a contradiction that Christianity is about love but forces the followers to fear God with the threat of eternal damnation. The church must move ahead from believing that ‘only prayer can solve problems’ to a more realistic approach of ‘action can solve problems’ – keeping in mind the inequalities and poverty that exists in the world.