Church listens to voice of young people

By James Dsouza

Three hundred young people from around the world had been chosen to come to Rome in preparation for the XV Synod of Bishops to take place in October 2018 to treat the topic: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.”

The main objective of the pre-synod of the meeting of the youth (March 19- 24) was to write a document reflecting the position of young people on issues proposed for discussion. Its final version will be considered by bishops on synod in October “Youth, faith and recognition of vocations” along with other documents.

It was a historic moment as for the first time that the Church sought the voice of young people. I see it as a gospel value as in Matthew 19:14, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I do agree that we will have some differences coming from different social, cultural and religious backgrounds. But let us also be positive that we have been able to agree on so many issues. This document was prepared by the young people. More than a document this is a DIALOGUE. The dialogue between young people and Church should continue with this document.

We also had a chance to meet Pope Francis. Young people shared their testimonies and asked him questions relevant to their world and Church. The most amazing thing was that the Pope was frank. He did not answer things with tactics but spoke the truth.

The Document is divided into three parts: Part One, The Challenges and Opportunities of Young People in the World Today; Part Two, Faith And Vocation, Discernment And Accompaniment; Part Three, The Church’s Formative And Pastoral Activity.

The delegates were divided into language groups mainly English, Spanish, French and Italian. We were all from different countries, cultures, churches and personal background, but together created a single atmosphere of communication and work. The discussion was open and bold, all wanted to share their experiences and problems, but at the same time do it with attention, to share experience and give comments.

For two days, we had a discussion of 15 questions, and a common document was prepared and edited on the basis of these discussions. In order to synthesize the results received from each group, a team was drawn up among the participants of the meeting, which continued to work. The following day, we presented the first version of the document in English, which was translated into the main languages: Italian, Spanish and French.

After being acquainted with it, all wishing was given the opportunity to go to the microphone and comment on what specifically liked and what is not (one like and one dislike). The discussion of the draft document continued later in small groups. All jointly amended amendments were sent to the group of editors, which prepared the second version of the document in English.

The following day at the general assembly, a new version of the document was read and presented for consultation. We wrote our general impression: liked it or not. The second version has acquired a holistic view and highlights important moments that have been missed. Participants were also given the opportunity to write concrete proposals for further elaboration without discussion in the group. And yes, there were a lot of them. At lunch, I heard a lot of heated discussions.

The final version was submitted and approved on March 24.

As for my impression, in general, I am pleased with the document: it covers many realities in which young people from different regions were present. The document reflected the problems and challenges we face and experience. It feels the spirit of young people who believe and eager to follow Christ looking for his way in life and place in the church and it is not afraid to say what he thinks. The theme of the vocations cares about people hard. However, it seemed to me that the final version had acquired a more radical view than the second version I liked more.

I think this was due to the fact that the panel’s discussion had previously served as a buffer in terms of more radical views, and the possibility of writing its proposals by individual comments created a situation where all those who had been amended were able to have a decisive impact. These amendments have not yet been discussed. I think a more conservative wing is still: the voting process for the adoption of the document also proved to be the case.

Nevertheless, I am truly grateful to all those who have participated in the discussion and writing, as well as to the team that has done a great deal of work, given the need to combine in one document very different or even opposite realities.

Positive experience has been noted, and much has been said about the inspiring element of a personal example of life by calling, the role of evidence, the life of saints, the invaluable support provided by spiritual mentoring and belonging to the community.

While reading the 16-page final version, I looked at the cardinal who was present at our meeting; his reaction was remarkable and mixed. True and the document is the same.

I wonder how Pope Francis and the synod of bishops will feel about it. It is even more interesting if there are any concrete changes on the ground and what they will be. It is clear that for different countries and realities, they must be different.

I support the idea that many have expressed, that it is important not only to wait for some results from the synod but to be proactive: in faith, to seek, to find and to live with YOUR CALLING.

(James Dsouza is the president FIMCAP, which is short for Fédération Internationale des Mouvements Catholiques d’Action Paroissiale [French for “International Federation of Catholic Parochial Youth Movements”], which is an umbrella organization for Catholic youth organizations. He comes from Goa, but now lives in Vadodara [Diocese of Baroda], Gujarat, Western India).

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