The power of listening to the young adult Church

March 14, 2017

One of the many things I personally admire about Pope Francis is his interest and willingness to listen to the needs and reality of all Catholics and non-Catholics around the world.

Not too long ago, in preparation for the Synod on the Family in 2015, he requested input from all bishops worldwide on nine questions about the current state of pastoral care for marriages and families. In turn, bishops listened to their local Church before answering these questions. This survey helped Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops to discuss important questions facing the Church. One of the fruits of this collaboration was the most recent apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”).

The Holy Father now directs our attention to young people (16 to 29 years old), primarily youth and young adults. The theme for the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2018 is “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment.” In preparation for this Synod, Pope Francis once again would like to listen to the whole world and has provided a survey at the end of the preparatory document dated Jan. 13.

“The document is divided into three parts. The first urges listening to reality. The second highlights the importance of discernment in the light of faith in order to make life choices that truly correspond to the will of God and to the good of the person. The third focuses on the pastoral action of the ecclesial community. The evangelical image of the ‘beloved disciple’ introduces the three parts as a brief presentation of the journey” (Presentation of the Preparatory Document of the Synod on “Youth, faith and vocational discernment,” 01-13-2017).
One of the key points for ministering to young adults at our local parishes is listening to them before serving them. Many times we are tempted to offer programs or start ministries without first listening to the needs of the young adults we are serving.

In his address to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops General Assembly, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Father Christophe Pierre, stated, “Young people have a strong need to be heard, to be recognized as persons, and to receive a personal response. In this dialogue, young people learn to journey in faith with others. What is it that young people have to offer to the Church? Young people are young people. They bring with them energy, creativity, sensitivity and generosity of spirit. Many are eager to serve. There is a temptation to think that we only need to teach them.”

He quoted Pope Francis: “I think that in the pastoral ministry of the Church many beautiful things are being done, many beautiful things… But there is one thing that we must do more, even the priests, even the lay people, but above all the priests must do more: the apostolate of listening: to listen!” (Incontro del Santo Padre con I partecipanti a/convegno per persone disabili, 6-11-2016).
The upcoming Synod and the preparation for it provides a window for us to learn from young people, to listen to them, to be with them, and to help them discover God’s plan for them. I invite you to encourage all the young adults you know ages 18-39 to attend the upcoming Young Adult Day on April 8 at St. Jerome Catholic Church. This day is designed to help them discover God’s plan in their life and it is titled “Whom are we called to serve?”

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Gabriela Karaszewski is the director of the Archdiocesan Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry.