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Kathleen-Rosebelle Diaz, right, and Joseph San José attended group sessions at a youth fourm in Rome where they discussed how to apply Christus Vivit in their own Church communities. Photo courtesy of Kathleen-Rosebelle Diaz

Youth Church leaders attend forum in Rome

  • August 20, 2019

After four days of meetings in Rome with fellow youth leaders from around the world, Canada’s representatives returned with at least one overriding lesson: There’s a lot of work to do.

Joseph San José of Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) in Burnaby, B.C., and Kathleen-Rosebelle Diaz of Our Lady of the Philippines and the Filipino Catholic Mission of Montreal were sent to Rome on behalf of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). They were among the more than 250 youth representing 109 countries participating in the follow-up and implementation phase of ideas generated during the Synod of Bishops on Youth People, Faith and Vocational Discernment held last October. 

“It was incredible,” said San José. “I went to Rome before but I never went for a Church gathering of leaders. … I’ve only gone for pilgrimage or vacation, so it was interesting to go there for work and have a different mentality beyond just seeing religious sites and historical sites.” 

The four-day forum consisted of talks and panels about synodality, pastoral ministry and vocational discernment. José and Diaz also attended a mass at St. Peter’s Basilica where they met Pope Francis.

“Pope Francis has always transformed my way of thinking as I grew in faith and I felt very grateful, blessed and honoured to meet him,” said Diaz. “It was surreal. I strongly felt his support in the way he greeted us.”

The pair also attended working group sessions discussing how to apply the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit in their own Church communities.

“One of the things I learned is that, by and large a majority of Churches around the world really haven’t engaged that much,” said José. “We’re still beginning to get started with Christus Vivit. I learned that people are really hungry and still wanting to journey through Christus Vivit and really activate and put action plans in their home churches.

“There’s a lot of hunger and desire to see that happen and there’s also a lot of confusion. A lot of differing opinions and messages of how best to live out Christus Vivit and in a sense was indicative of what the Church was about or what the Church’s mission or focus was.”

San José said some church groups wanted to learn how to engage people who feel excluded from churches. 

He was told one of the simplest ways to live out Christus Vivit is by looking at our friends, family and colleagues who don’t know Jesus and introduce them to Him by sharing the Gospel.

“It was interesting to see the diversity of responses from Christus Vivit and it was interesting to bounce that off and have good conversations with people,” said San José.

He said he would love to see avenues in Canada where young leaders can be a voice, life and leadership of a church. 

“Young people are the centre of the church and young people are not the future of the church, they’re the now,” said San José. “One of the things that’s emphasized over again in the apostolic exhortation is the fact that Jesus Himself was a young person. In the eyes of today’s world, as a 30-year-old when He began His ministry, He was a young adult.”

Diaz said Christus Vivit is a reminder that Christ is alive and it is a call to action to break generational gaps, accompany young people in a changing world, and to have a vibrant youth ministry.

“Christus Vivit really invites us to know, personally and as a group also, what are we called to do and to think about that to discern and take the time to speak to Jesus and speak to God about it and live it in how we speak to others,” said Diaz, who is the co-ordinator of a youth ministry in her parish.

“It’s been said in the forum that you can’t give what you don’t have, so I think being resourceful is one of the biggest ones in understanding that we need to help each other,” said Diaz. “I think one of my main takeaways from Christus Vivit personally is to bring out the best of yourself for the glory of God and for the good of people.” 

San José and Diaz will be discussing their forum experiences at the CCCB’s Plenary Assembly, Sept. 23-27 in Cornwall, Ont.

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