The landscape is changing, but there is hope
January 23, 2018
The landscape of the nation, and wider world, is changing daily. We do not have to look very far to see turmoil in politics, violence. It seems as if no place is safe; there is no room for peace and decency anymore. Throughout the history, the Catholic Church has been a beacon of hope. There are new developments and events occurring within the Catholic Church that are paving a way for not only the future, but for what is happening right now.
Pope Francis has focused on the family because he knows it is the basic cell of society. As St. John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the world in which we live.”
Pope Francis called the Synods on the Family in 2014 and 2015. The Synod of Bishops is an institution established after the close of the Second Vatican Council. These bishops assist the Holy Father by providing counsel on important issues facing the Catholic Church. The theme for the upcoming 15th Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops will be “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.”
A document, a letter by the Pope, and a special survey have all been distributed as a way to listen to what youth and young adults ages 16 to 29 have to say. The Catholic Church is engaging the youth and young people around the world in a way that has not been seen before, and it is refreshing and life-giving. For more on the synod, visit www.usccb.org.
Now, look at what is occurring in our own country. The United States is a melting pot, and for decades many immigrants have come to this great country. This migration throughout the years has brought an interesting character and flavor to the American Catholic Church.
This effect of enculturation can be easily seen in our local Church, which celebrates the Sunday Liturgy in 14 different languages. The biggest population are our brother and sisters who have migrated across the border with many of them raising their families here. Hispanic Catholics account for 40 percent of all Catholics in America, and more than 50 percent of all Catholics under 35.
Since 1972, the bishops of the United States have responded to the growing Hispanic/Latino Catholic population through a discernment process called Encuentro. Today, the American Catholic Church has heeded the Pope’s call to find those on the fringes by preparing for the fifth Encuentro.
On the USCCB website, V Encuentro is described as a process to “encourage us to continue to walk as God’s people, to raise our prophetic voice once more, and to discern pastoral priorities and strategies that are most appropriate to the present time.” Part of this process includes meeting those who feel disconnected to the Church, and listening to what they have to say.
This has been a two-year process that culminates in a national gathering in Texas on September 2018. For more, visit www.vencuentro.org.
The Church in the United States are also looking into the ever-changing experience of the Young Church in this country. The last major document was “Renewing the Vision,” which was published in 1997. Since then, much has changed, which is precisely why three major national associations that focus and somehow influence the Young Church in America came together.
The National Conference for Catechetical Leadership (NCCL), the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM), and the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) partnered to publish a document that was endorsed by the United States bishops called “The Joy of Adolescent Catechesis.”
This document is a must read for anyone involved or connected to young people. It explains the context, importance and vision of evangelization and catechesis for families and parishes in 2018. It emphasizes that all young people should be included in youth ministry programs, most especially those who feel left out. For more visit, www.nfcym.org.
We do not have to fear with Pope Francis leading the way as he challenges us to reach out to those on the fringes — like the immigrant and young people, to name a few — and listening to what they have to say. This process of accompaniment enriches the Catholic Church of today by uniting us, and it gives us hope for a future of harmony.
We can all join in by praying for the Holy Spirit to guide us in our own lives, and we can discern what is it the Lord is asking us to do. We are all in this together. We are one. We are family. We have nothing to fear!
Dunn M. Estacio is an associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.