Church needs to get closer to youth, Indian delegate

By Santosh Digal

Rome, October 3: Cherylanne Menezes is the only woman in the 14-member Indian delegation participating in the Synod of Bishops starting in Rome today.

The October 3-28 synod will address the theme “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.”

Matters India talked to Menezes about her expectations from the Synod and more. Excerpts:

MATTERS INDIA: Please introduce yourself.

CHERYLANNE MENEZES: I am brought up in Mumbai, Maharashtra, Western India, in a family that has been very much involved in the local parish as well as in the multi-religious community where we lived.

Study wise, I come from an Economy and Commerce background from Sydenham College, Mumbai, and I have always been in the field of Management. I currently work for a multinational chemical firm. I have done my Masters in Trinitarian Onthology at the Sophia Institute University, Italy, with a thesis related to the Hindu-Christian dialogue in the Focolare Movement.

I have been involved in the Focolare Movement since I was 17 years and in various periods of time, I have had opportunities to jointly coordinate the youth formation programs and activities.

Pope Francis has picked 14 Indian delegates for the Synod on Youth. How does it to be a part of the delegation?

Well, it did not strike me that I was the only woman until I read the statistics. I feel humbled before such a task and at the same time convinced that there is a lot to contribute in terms of experience and a lot to learn from others. I am looking forward to it.

According to you, what is the importance and need of the synod on youth?

To understand the importance, I guess it is enough to see the amount of work that has gone in towards this Synod, starting from the discourses of our Holy Father, the preparatory commission, all aimed at listening to the voice of our young people the challenges and all the positive that is also being done. The young people are not just our future, they are our present. The complexities of our world today compel us as Church, as humanity, to invest our best resources for the benefit of our young generations. We have to start from fundamental questions and problems and we have to work together, young people and adults, if we want to ensure a new and better world.

What are your expectations from it?

I think the Synod is just the beginning of the journey. It is a positive start, as the pre-synodal work done by the young people all over the world, gathered in the instrumentum laboris, is already a groundwork explicating the needs, the desires, the struggles, the hopes, the suggestions of the youth today. So taking this into consideration, I hope at the Synod, with the help of course of the Holy Spirit, the document that comes forth may be a light to our understanding of being Church today, a Church that is more Marian, close to the youth and that walks along with humanity.

What are the challenges Indian Catholic youth face today?

While there are issues particular to different geographical contexts, I think youth, in general, have similar challenges. They are looking for clarity in the teachings of the Church and its relevance in today’s context. They are hoping to be accompanied in their life directions by matured adults. They are searching for their space to contribute to decision-making processes, to experience the sense of belonging in a community. I also think as Catholics in India, we need to still find our way to be more integrated into our context and more involved in working together with the youth of different faith traditions.

What more should the Church in India do for Catholic youth in India?

The Church is all of us, so we should all feel called to action! If we keep in mind the above-mentioned challenges of the youth and at different levels, together with the priests, religious, movements, offer our capacities, our time, our professionalism, our experience, we could definitely do a lot more.

Given a chance, what are the issues you would to say on the working document of the Synod and during the deliberations?

There are quite a few topics like the inter-generational relationships, accompaniment, to which I hope to pitch in with some experiences.

If you get an opportunity with Pope Francis meeting one to one in Rome at the sideline of the Synod, what would you like to tell him?

I would want to thank him first of all for what he is doing with courage and determination, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the renewal of the church, which has an impact also on the world at large. To then assure him of all our prayers, support and adherence to what he asks of us.

And a final word?

It is a request to all the readers to accompany this Synod by daily prayer and to use every opportunity to live with and for the young people. The synod began on October 3, and there is a lot of positive vibration and enthusiasm among all the participants here.

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