The Synod of ‘Young people, faith and vocational discernment’, concludes on 28 October. On Tuesday 23 October a summary address, by Archbishop Eamon Martin, to the Synod Fathers on the discussion of English language group A, was issued.
“The Holy Spirit is rejuvenating the Church through this Synod” was the opening statement of Archbishop Eamon. He recalled the address of Pope Francis at World Youth Day in Kraków, who asked the young people several times, “Can we change things?” Each time they responded with a resounding “Yes!”
Archbishop Eamon said that over the course of the synodal journey: “In a curious reversal of roles, it is the young people here present who have accompanied us, helping us to scrutinise ‘the signs of the times’ and to discern, ‘in the light of the Gospel’ what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church.”
In terms of engaging young people at the parish or diocesan level, Archbishop Eamon’s group highlighted the following areas for pastoral action:
1. Practical resources and guidance for parents and grandparents as the ‘first teachers’ of the young, and for the family which is ‘the little Church’, ‘the school of love and humanity’;
2. Renewed encouragement for our Catholic schools and universities, for quality teacher formation and vibrant chaplaincies; (after all, as Pope Francis has said, “to educate is an act of love, it is to give life”).
3. A greater contribution from women, families and young lay leaders in seminary formation;
4. Organised opportunities for young people to connect with their peers and others on pilgrimages, gatherings and events of popular piety;
5. ‘Youcat’, ‘Docat’ ‘Kidcat?!’ and other Programmes to support a ‘kerygmatic catechesis’ which offer a sound understanding of faith within a prayerful context of encounter and friendship with Christ in His Church;
6. Opportunities for art, music, youth choirs, and sport to open up beauty, friendship, belonging and teamwork;
7. Active participation of youth in liturgy, in associations, movements, basic Christian communities and in all Church activities, including in consultative and decision-making roles.
Archbishop Eamon argued for the “re-imagination of parishes and structures so that young people are heard, listened to, appreciated and encouraged. The goal of this work is to offer to them, as Christifidelis Laici puts it so beautifully, a threefold experience of Church – as ‘mystery’, ‘communion’ and ‘mission’.”
One of the central points of the Archbishop’s address was how young people can reach those who are far from the Church. He stated that: “young people are not simply the OBJECTS of our evangelisation and pastoral ministry; they are also the AGENTS of evangelisation to each other and, indeed, to the whole Church.”
Archbishop Eamon recalled Pope Francis’ August visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Knock, in Ireland. He said: “Almost forty years ago Pope Saint John Paul II said there: “Every generation, with its own mentality and characteristics, is like a new continent to be won for Christ”.
“Spirit has revealed to us that the greatest resource in winning this new generation, this new continent for Christ, is our young people themselves. Why should we be surprised at this, since God chose from among the sons of Jesse, David, the youngest, the shepherd boy, and bestowed his Spirit powerfully upon him? Why should we be surprised that God might again be choosing the youngest of His faithful as His ‘champions’ to confront the giant ‘Goliath’ challenges in today’s world?”