Young people talk during a conference in Rome April 6. The conference was in preparation for next year’s Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment and World Youth Day in 2019. CNS photo/courtesy Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life

Countdown has begun on youth synod preparations

  • April 17, 2017

The Vatican’s launch date for a website on the 2018 Synod of Bishops has come and gone, but the web site remains offline.

Nevertheless, while missed its March debut, that isn’t deterring bishops around the world who are tasked with giving youth a seat at the table in preparation for the October 2018 synod on “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment.”

The presentation of the preparatory document of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in January marked the beginning of the “consultation of the entire People of God.”

Every bishop has approached this consultation stage in their own way.

Bishops of England and Wales launched a nationwide survey March 20, inviting 13- to 29-year-olds of all religions and even no religion to respond to a “Youth Poll on Life, Faith and Vocational Discernment.”

The French Episcopal Conference’s National Service for the Evangelization of Youth and Vocations gathered youth ministry directors of dioceses, movements, associations and communities in Paris last month.

In Canada, synod preparations are much more local.

The Diocese of London is working on releasing its own version of the questionnaire that was released with the preparatory document.

“We reformulated a lot of the questions to eliminate that churchy language,” said Claire Bondy, the diocese’s family and youth ministry specialist. “From our perspective, it’s really going to be valuable to connect with those who we don’t see.”

Bondy said the online survey will give the diocese an opportunity to reach out to the young people who have walked away from the Church but still identify with their Catholic faith.

Nearby, the Diocese of Hamilton is planning a series of roundtable discussions throughout its six deaneries. Youth director Christina Mines said the roundtables are a collaboration between the youth office and the vocations office.

“We’re in the process of inviting a vibrant cross-section of young people from across the diocese to take part in prayerful dialogue regarding the synod and the questionnaire,” she said. “They’re going to begin at the end of April and they’re going to run until the end of August.”

Mines said the idea for the roundtables came from a meeting with Bishop Douglas Crosby and vocations director Fr. Michael King. The goal is to hear from the young people themselves about how the diocese can respond to their needs.

“In a way, they speak a different language. I’m an immigrant to the world of digital,” said King. “They have a better sense as to how their generation thinks, how they perceive. The Church at her best has always tried to start with people where they’re at.”

Roundtable discussions will be facilitated by Sr. Margaret Kane from the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada. She will then compile the responses for a summary report that the Hamilton diocese will submit for the synod.

“(The synod) is like the Holy Father saying to the world let’s start thinking about what young adults, youth ministry could be or should be,” said Fr. Frank Portelli, youth director at the Archdiocese of Toronto.

Portelli said the Office of Catholic Youth is working with Cardinal Thomas Collins to organize a workshop about the synod during the archdiocese’s Priests Seminar in October.

Toronto Auxiliary Bishop John Boissonneau has also been in conversation with Catholic campus chaplaincies in the diocese since February. However, Portelli said the Office of Catholic Youth is also looking to engage young adults within their own ministry network.

All bishops are commissioned to respond to the three-part questionnaire attached to the preparatory document and submit responses by this October. The responses will then contribute to a report released for early next year.

The synod is not designed as a study on young people nor will it be led by them, said Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, on April 6 during the Vatican Youth Forum April 5-9.

Rather, Baldisseri said the Vatican hopes it will be a synod “with young people” and one that helps them better express and share their faith.

(With files from Catholic News Service)

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