Helping Young People in the Life of Faith
As we move through the Easter Season, our Mass readings tell the wonderful story of the growth of the Church through the preaching of the first Apostles. That Gospel mission continues today and all the baptized, including young people, are called to be missionary disciples. Now Pope Francis has called a Synod of Bishops to meet next year to consider how better the Church “can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to the fullness of life and love, and to ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective ways to announce the Good News today” (Preparatory Document Introduction). This includes their vocational discernment as to whether they are called to married or religious life or the priesthood.
In this time leading up to the Synod, Pope Francis has asked that every diocese hold listening sessions with young people, parents and adults who work with them. It is an age-old reality that we older folks do not always speak the language of young people, we do not really fully understand or appreciate their challenges and dreams, and thus it can be difficult to find the right words to speak to them of the important things in life, such as the gift of faith. Therefore, this venture of listening to young people speak about their own faith and experiences will be invaluable as we try to meet the challenge of nurturing them in the faith, keeping them interested and active in the Church, and in living their Catholic faith out in the secular world.
Here in the Archdiocese of Washington, we are responding to the Holy Father’s request through an initiative called “Share With Francis,” which both equips parishes and schools with materials to host a listening session, and includes an online survey for those not able to participate in a listening session. Parents, pastors, catechists and others will have the chance here to share their own insights in living and working with young people. However, we especially want to hear from young people. Please help these efforts by sharing this information with any young person you know who can help us better hear and nurture them and also by using #SharewithFrancis in social media.
Regarding this process, Pope Francis has written a letter in which he says to young people: The Church “wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls.” Joining with our Holy Father, it our hope is that by listening to young people and hearing their aspirations, “the Church can glimpse the world which lies ahead and the paths the Church is called to follow” (Preparatory Document Introduction).