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Father Muench Says...

Synod to focus on youth, young adults

Oct. 10, 2018

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

This month, the General Synod of the Bishops of the Catholic Church is meeting. Since the Second Vatican Council, this General Synod of Bishops has been an important part of the Catholic Church. This year’s Synod will be the fifteenth meeting of the General Synod. Hundreds of Bishops from around the world will be meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

I hope that you remember the last two sessions of the Synod. Both focused on the family. Both these meetings were titled, “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.” Pope Francis summarized the discussions of these sessions. He publicized this in a book entitled, “Amoris Laetitia: On Love in the Family.” I found this to be a very powerful message for our church. This book renewed the teaching of Jesus as to the family and the challenges of being a Christian family in the Catholic Church.

This year, the 15th General Synod will be concerned with young people – the church’s relationship with teen agers and young adults. This meeting is called, “Young People, Faith and Vocation Discernment.” This is truly a major concern for our Catholic Church in our time. My hope is that the Bishops in Synod will make strong statements and recommendations as advisors to Pope Francis. May this Synod produce real challenges for us all, the church throughout the world. I believe this is an important Synod.

A great deal is being written these days concerning the Synod. Today, I would like to review with you some ideals that I picked up from an article written by Father Thomas Reese, S.J. He wrote of his hopes for the Synod. The Bishops will be coming from all over the world. Yet, their concerns are very similar.

Many young people are leaving our Catholic Church, some even in their teens. They are finding the Catholic Church irrelevant to their lives, even rather boring.

All Bishops must recognize that they can learn so much from the young themselves. For that matter, all clergy needs to listen to young people, if they will ever make sense to the young people. This includes all young people, not just those who attend church. This is an evangelizing challenge. In recent times, the church has developed what we call a new evangelization. Pope Francis speaks of this new evangelization with his stress on God’s love, mercy and compassion, and our need to respond to that love by loving our brothers and sisters. This must be part of our message to young people.

Many young people have turned to evangelical churches. They have developed the joy of reading and studying the Bible. Our church needs to learn to make the Bible come alive for young people. The Second Vatican Council encouraged the church to be more scripturally based. Personally, I am saddened when I think of this.

Why have we failed to lead ordinary Catholics more into the Bible. Why can’t we get young people to love the Bible?

Young people have demonstrated a strong desire for community. Religion is about spirituality and community.

Too many young people do not find community in their parishes. Our challenge as a church is to make our parishes more welcoming to young people. Many find their parishes rather unwelcoming.

The Catholic Church must become relevant to the needs of young people. I have found that many young people are sensitive to injustice and inequality. There are many places in the world where young people are poor, exploited and live in area of conflict. There are several other concerns that capture their attention. A good example would be the environment.

One thing Father Reese and others have mentioned for the Synod’s attention is the clerical sex abuse crisis in our church. This sex abuse crisis has become a worldwide concern, for young people also. This, of course, deserves the attention of the entire church. The Synod needs to support the programs that are being developed to solve this crisis – demands like zero tolerance. The Synod must call upon the Bishops to deal well with these concerns in their own dioceses.

Finally, I want to make it clear that I believe that our Catholic Church has a meaningful and powerful message, a message that we must get out to our young people. So, I pray for the Bishops of this Synod. May they produce challenges for our Church and for its future. I pray also for all the Bishops of the Catholic Church.

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