ESTACIO: An Update on the Synod on young people, the faith and vocational discernment

March 12, 2019

In an issue last fall, we looked ahead to the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The Synod took place from Oct. 3 to 28, 2018.

The Instrumentum laboris, a preparatory document produced leading up to the Synod, was a solid foundation for the assembly that met in Rome. At the conclusion of the Synod, a final document was released.

It can be a guide for us as we await an Apostolic Exhortation, which is a magisterial document that will highlight key points on this topic with a pastoral message from the Pope.

There are three key points I would like to personally highlight from the final document; namely, accompanying young people, the importance of family and listening. “The responsible participation of young people in the life of the Church is not optional... trials and frailties of young people help us to be better, their questions challenge us, their doubts cause us to reflect on the quality of our faith (116).”

Young people were the primary focus of this Synod, and in my experience in serving them, I know they can be a true blessing. Youth ministry can definitely be difficult and challenging, but it is by accompanying young people where we discover their gifts, vitality and faith. It is through this call to serve young people where I see the diversity and unity of the Catholic Church. We need young people because they enrich the Body of Christ.

The parents, or guardians, are the primary catechists, or teachers, of the faith to their teens. This is vital to be aware of because when we serve young people there needs to be an understanding that they are part of a family unit. We cannot evangelize and catechize young people in a fruitful manner without taking this into consideration.

“The family is the first faith community where, for all its limitations and incompleteness, the young person experiences God’s love and begins to discern a vocation (72).” A family looks much different today than it did just 10 years ago, and as the Catholic Church, we have to come to grips with this.

We need to ask the difficult questions and seek answers that can help us lead young people to encounter Jesus Christ within the context of their families.

Like the family, many things are changing within the life of a young person. They experience a variety of transitions ranging from school acceptance, to job transitions, within their many relationships, and with discerning their own vocations.

“Many find that their voice is not considered interesting or useful in social and ecclesial circles. In some situations little attention is paid to their cry, particularly the cry of the poor and the exploited — few older people are willing and able to listen to them (7).”

Young people want to be heard and recognized. The Catholic Church is beautiful, true and good, but if we cannot take the time to stop and listen to the needs of young people, then we miss the opportunity to share the Gospel message to them in a way they can understand.

With all changes occurring in their lives, it is essential for young people to know that Jesus Christ is with them through the trials and tribulations they face. The Catholic Church wants to help and hear what the hearts of young people have to say.

This entire process of the Synod has been a lesson for the entire Church on the passion and desire young people have for Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. 

Let us continue to pray for the Young Church, who are not only the Church of the future, but the Church of right now.

Dunn Estacio is an associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.