This October marks the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops with the theme: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” Together with the Pope, our bishops will share experiences, reflect on and recommend pastoral solutions in ministering to the youth. Here is a sample of young people’s expectations regarding the Synod.
PUBLISHED ONNov 2018
In preparation for the Synod, the Vatican initiated a dialogue with representatives of youth groups from around the world through a pre-synodal meeting held on March 19-24, 2018 in Rome.
One of the Filipino delegates to this event was 28-year-old Earl Valdez, a seminarian at the San Jose Seminary in Quezon City. Bro. Earl pointed out that among the things that struck him about the pre-synodal gathering was his special encounter with His Holiness Pope Francis.
He commented, “More than just his call to be courageous in expressing our thoughts and views in the pre-synodal meeting, he also answered questions coming from young people from different countries. He greeted the whole crowd youthfully and joyfully, showing what the Church is called to be: young and full of joy.”
Integrating the insights and opinions of the youth representatives was a herculean task. Bro. Earl expressed, “I was amazed that, with a short span of time, three hundred young people came up with a synthesis of how they see, feel, and think about the world, themselves, God’s call for holiness, and the Church’s identity and mission.”
Bro. Earl shares his expectations regarding the Synod: “that the Bishops be mindful and attentive to the forces and trends that shape young people today and how the Church can respond to their needs and accompany them in their growth. Pope Francis, one with the young people, sees a challenge ahead: those who will talk about the youth are themselves called to be more youthful. I believe that if our bishops truly listen to their young flock while also humbly sharing and working with the wisdom that comes with age and experience, we will see that this year’s Synod will be a very fruitful one.”
When it comes to his own experience of vocation discernment, he says, “I was originally set to follow the footsteps of my parents as either a doctor or a lawyer, but God has something else planned for me. And now, I only respond to Him with much diligence and faithfulness. He has been good, and I can only receive the goodness that He freely gives.”
How do other young people see their involvement in the Church today? Thirty-four-year-old physician Grace Pancho is a Steward of the New Generation Directorate of The Lord’s Flock Catholic Charismatic Community. She describes her service to the Church as “both a privilege and a challenge. It is a privilege to be used by God to guide the young people towards knowing Him, loving Him and serving.”
Grace has been a youth leader since early 2000. According to her, the challenge she faces in accompanying the youth and singles is to use new approaches in evangelization and to help them stay in a loving relationship with God amidst the pressures in today’s society.
Kent Galido, also from the Lord’s Flock Catholic Charismatic Community, is a full-time Church Servant and is the Head Steward of their New Generation Directorate. At twenty-four years old, he is very much excited with his mission. His positive response to the offer of his community to work as their missionary is a product of discernment.
He explains, “…the Lord is giving me the opportunity to dwell on His plans for me – plans not to harm me but to lead me to a prosperous life; a life willing to be shared for people who need the Lord. Early this year, I’ve heard the voice of the Lord in my prayer time and He said to me ‘... I know, it is not easy, but I have already won the fight...’ and one of His messages to me is from Colossians 4:17 ‘See that you fulfill the ministry that you received in the Lord.’”
In the case of Grace, her being single right now has its blessings. “At the moment, I am maximizing the single state of a lay person – enjoying in the sense that I am offering my time, talent and treasure to the service for the Kingdom of God. Much is required and this present state of life is able to address the demands of this ministry.”
Kent believes that his vocation is to love and serve the Lord totally. This, for Him, involves continuing to ask the Lord for direction by consulting Him through Scriptures. Another verse that has touched his heart is Sirach 51:30: “Do your duty at the proper time, and the Lord, at the time He thinks proper, will give you your reward.”
These three inspiring young people are using their energy wisely to grow more deeply in their relationship with the Lord, and are also spreading His goodness to others, especially to other young people.
Bro. Earl suggests that in reaching out to the youth, the Church must be aware of their pressing needs. He stresses, “I think the most important thing for the youth to learn today is to have a great capacity to evaluate and make decisions for themselves and with others in the world. But this, I think, should be learned together with having a sense of transcendence – that there is recognition of things and realities that are greater than what young people have or imagine. And after recognizing what (or more importantly, Who) it is, the capacity to pursue and enter into this reality, despite knowing that it involves a lot of patience and perseverance in the process.”
He is of the conviction that amidst poverty, injustice, climate change, LGBT issues and technological advancements, the youth need “to see where they are in the world and respond to it in their unique way, according to their own gifts, skills, talents, and self-knowledge. But more importantly, they also need to recognize where God is calling them to be and to do; this, however, requires a certain kind of awareness toward the way God meets them in their contexts and lovingly guides them. Only prayer – personal and communal alike, most especially the liturgy – and reflection, can hone this awareness.”
Fight Satan’s Tactics
Grace hopes that through the Synod on the Youth, our Church leaders will “be more active in getting the attention of our young ones – the future of our church.” She prays that they will realize that “we are being faced with lots of challenges. I think the enemy has formulated a new way of getting the attention of the young ones and so, we must be equipped to counteract the enemy’s present strategies.” Kent shares in this wish – for the Church leaders to help the youth effectively fight Satan’s tactics.
In helping draft the Final Document that will play a relevant role in the Synod of Bishops, Bro. Earl shares that the youth desire mentors and guides who go through their own struggles and imperfections, yet find Christ as their beacon and strive to follow Him. He points out that the Church is both mother and teacher, steering them towards holiness and joyfully living out God’s call for them.
As a young person himself answering God’s invitation to passionately serve Him, he emphasizes, “We are called to meet the young where they are, to listen to them and their problems, to share what we have and what the Church has in store for them, and to engage in meaningful conversations that lead to a genuine encounter with God. This motherly presence inevitably comes with the ministry of teaching the Word and its relation to the world.”
Bro. Earl wishes that the Church may preach the Gospel by all possible means, and in all possible aspects. Today’s young people, he says, want to be guided regarding complex issues of peace, justice, and integrity of creation in the world today. “They also desire to have a part in evangelizing as leaders of their own communities.”
Regarding the youth’s expectations’ vis a vis the Church, the seminarian states that she “is called to both be firm in Her teaching, and exercise charity as well as understanding toward people facing complex situations. She is also called to a critical engagement with culture, politics, and economics. She is called to go to the peripheries, where the situation of the least, the last, and the lost require much study, discernment, and charity.”
Truly, the Holy Spirit speaks through our young people. Through their voices, we will not only hear their deepest needs, but the direction in which the Church continues to be relevant in powerfully sharing the love of the merciful, healing and saving God.