The Synod is a great opportunity for Catholics to share their thoughts on the future of the Church, this includes the thoughts of young Catholics too. The Columbans around the world are supporting the Synodal Process, with Britain’s contribution having been to facilitate discussion amongst young adults in order to amplify their thoughts in response to some of the questions outlined in the Synod Process.
Through youth action and advocacy, Million Minutes work to ensure young people contribute to building a world based on the heart of Catholic social teaching, the principals of dignity and equality, of service to the poor and oppressed, of care for the world and the promotion of peace and solidarity.
The Columbans are supporters of Million Minutes and have enjoyed collaborating with them in the past. Besides the ‘Celebrating Young People Awards’, James Trewby, Columban Justice and Peace Education Worker took on the challenge of staying silent for 24 hours in support of Million Minutes’ SiLENT campaign early last year.
Talking of the Synodal Process, James explains, “Pope Francis invites all Catholics to synodality – that is, listening to, and hearing, one another. As an advocate for the youth, I feel it’s important we take this opportunity to listen to what young people have to say about their experience of the Church.” He adds, “It’s essential we include young people in our discussions and amplify their voices. We must engage them in local conversations and give them the space to discuss matters that concern them, their faith and the future of their Church.”
The report is a collation of responses from a small but diverse group of young Catholics who gathered together on Zoom on Monday 17th January 2022 for a Young Adult Synodal Conversation. Ranging from age 17 to 25 years old, and from six different dioceses across the country, the young adults came from a number of different racial and cultural backgrounds, and thus brought with a variety of honest replies to several questions asked by the team.
James explains, “We had some really open and honest discussions, it was extremely interesting hear how these young adults feel about their communities, their Church and their vision for the future. We’re very grateful to everyone who participated.”
The first set of questions explored the experiences of young adults during the pandemic and the extent to which participants felt the Church was journeying with them. One young adult talked about her pre-pandemic struggle to identify with the Church, especially after leaving home for university and moving around parishes: but during and post-pandemic she felt able to “find God in nature and in conversation”.
The second set of questions explored the participant’s experiences of parish life, of clergy and Religious and their feelings of belonging to the Church. Some of the young adults did not always feel a sense of belonging in physical Church spaces. Some participants felt that older Catholics were not always open to new ideas or opinion. One young adult said that her local Church had encouraged her to grow, developing confidence in her skills and in leadership positions, which was really encouraging.
The third and final set of questions was based around the theme of discernment, and elicited some of the most passionate debates among participants. Despite their diverse experiences, the group were united in their agreement of the need for renewal in the Church. The young people were united in the belief that society and life were better with a renewed faith and Church. They wanted to see a commitment to renewal, constant listening, changing with the times, staying relevant, and not leaving anyone behind. They explained that they wanted to see their communities coming together to address issues of hardship locally and felt this was an excellent means of expressing faith.
Upon reflecting on the Synodal Process, the participants said they appreciated a space where they could unpack the questions together and interrogate their meaning collectively. Witten collaboratively by James Trewby, and Beth Warren and Daisy Srblin from Million Minutes, the report will be submitted to the Vatican’s Listening Process.
The Columban Missionaries would like to thank Million Minutes for their help co-organising the event in January to collect the young people’s responses and their support writing the report. They wish to express their sincere thanks also to the young people for their participation and willingness to share their thoughts.