“The Church is asking us for something that only you two can do” said Janel, our formator, one day early this year as Briana and I sat on the couch in our living room. Seeing my confused face, she continued: “…or if you prefer it’s a request of Pope Francis.” After some nervous laughter she began to explain to us an opportunity that would prove to be one of the most unique and beautiful experiences of our lives up to this point.
From March 19 – 25, Briana and I lived a week of encounter with young people who were called together by the Pope and Church from all over the world, in preparation for the Synod of Bishops for Young People- the Faith and Vocational Discernment that will be held this October. Our task was to reflect over 15 questions asked by the Synod Fathers themselves (a group of bishops from all over the world who will participate with the Pope in the Synod) and to produce a short document to be used by them in their reflections in October. It is the first time that the Church has done such a thing and has given a voice to young people on such a high level.
Briana and I represented the voice of over 2,000 English-speaking young people who were participating in the Facebook group created specifically for the event. Our job was to read their responses to the same 15 questions we and the other 300 delegates present in Rome were also reflecting on, and to synthesize these responses in a report. This report would then be used in the writing of the document presented to Pope Francis during Palm Sunday Mass.
In true young people fashion, the week was filled with much energy and joy. Everyone took this opportunity seriously and openly shared their ideas and desires, which the Pope himself encouraged us to do in his visit on our first day of the Pre-Synodal Meeting. Young people of all continents, languages, ways of life, and religions were present. While most were Catholics, there were also those of other faiths and those who consider themselves atheists. Even among Catholics, a wide variety of needs was represented, according to their country of origin and what issues and topics were most relevant to their culture (persecution, pro-life matters, freedom of religious expression, interfaith dialogue, immigration, etc.). We had all of our meals together. It was an amazing experience to sit at a table with people from several different countries – even continents! My knowledge of English and Italian helped me to be able to communicate with many people, but I still felt a great need and desire to study other languages so as to be able to encounter the others.
I was very touched by these encounters. All those present were available to listen and to share on a deep level. I don’t know how many times I shared my personal story of encounter with God and about my community. In addition to the joy of sharing my own story, I was also edified by the stories shared with me and by the witness of faith and joy that challenged me to grow. I saw many different sides of the Face of God that week and at the end of it, kneeling in our chapel at home, I couldn’t help but think: “Jesus, how beautiful You are.”
With what imagination God created us all! Each of us as a different expression of His beauty, each called to a different mission, a different way to serve, to love, to announce His Name. My life was deeply enriched by those few days that were full of experiences one would think would take months to live, not just days! I got to live in a unique way what it means to be a part of the universal Church in all of its different expressions and ways to worship the One True God. I will always be grateful for this opportunity and am forever changed because of it.
We underlined parts of the document Instrumentum Laboris which are particularly connected with the AVI charism and spirituality. Our invitation is to read the highlighted paragraphs, which can aid us in understanding how the Church, through the voice of young people, is calling us to ministry to them and with them. This is the direction we can follow to shape our apostolate in a very concrete way.
# 61-62; 82-84; 90; 100; 101; 109; 111; 113-115; 185
SPIRITUAL AND HUMAN ACCOMPANIMENT
#121; 123; 130-136; 165; 172-174
FUTURE STEPS FOR THE CHURCH
#65; 67;70;147; 139; 140; 144; 156; 159; 160; 175-178; 183; 192-199; 201; 203; 204; 213
If this topic fascinates you and you would like to go deeper, check out these additional resources:
- Another article about our experience
- The final document produced by the young people during the pre-synod meetings
- An outline used while drafting the final document
- For more general information, click here