Youth ministries throughout New Zealand have started making a plan to engage young people in and out of the Church and to find out their thoughts and views in preparation for the world synod of bishops in October, 2018.

Isabella McCafferty, who was a New Zealand representative at a recent international youth meeting in Rome and is a member of the Wellington Archdiocese Young Church Ministries, said this was the challenge that Pope Francis issued to the meeting participants on the eve of Palm Sunday.

“[The challenge] . . . is around how we engage all young people, not just young people who are connected to the Church already. We are trying to think outside the usual structures and looking for places where we can engage young people,” Miss McCafferty, 26, said.

“Also as a young person, the challenge is to go out and have those conversations with people who are the same age as me,” she said.

She and Auckland Youth and Young Adult Ministry team leader Teresa McNamara were in Rome on April 5-9 to attend an international meeting organised by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life in collaboration with the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.

Miss McCafferty said she  was awestruck at seeing the Pope in person.

What stuck her the most though, she said, was his passion for youth.

“He was preaching and he got rid of his prepared speech because he heard the testimony of two young people (Franciscan Sister Marialisa and Pompeo Barbieri),” she said.

“He did it ad lib. Though I don’t understand any Italian, and there was no translation, I can see and feel the passion that he had for young people just through the way he presented and the way he spoke, the love that he has for the young Church and for young people beyond the Church,” Miss McCafferty said.

She added, “you just feel the presence of God in him and the Holy Spirit working in his life and in his leadership. People just want to be part of that and close to him”.

Miss McCafferty said she hopes that everyone would feel that they could play a part in preparing for next year’s synod through prayer and conversations with young people.

“[Pope Francis] also challenged us to talk to our grandparents who are older people and to listen to what their dreams are and were and to take those into account as we look into the future,” she said.

“There will be the challenge of the intergenerational Church and of finding those voices and listening to those voices, too.”

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