Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn assured young Catholics in the diocese that they were heard and their suggestions given at the Auckland Youth Synod will be taken very seriously.
Some 200 young people representing 80 groups gathered on April 22 at St Peter’s College to discuss with Church leaders what they wanted from the Church and how they see themselves and their role in it.
“Thank you for your input, for sharing your dreams and your hopes. As your bishop, I want to assure you that we are taking very seriously the suggestions that you made and we’ll try to use them to renew the face of the Church here in this diocese,” he said.
The bishop said all the recommendations gathered will be given to a working group that is crafting the diocesan pastoral plan for the next five to ten years.
Bishop Dunn told the group the synod is a milestone in the Church’s on-going journey.
“We’ve had structures and a way of organising the Church that served us well for a thousand years. But it’s all changing. And we know that. The Church in which I grew up does not exist,” he said.
He likened the Church in Auckland to a river that was blocked and has found a different direction to flow to.
“How can the Church in Auckland connect more strongly to the great river of God’s presence in the world, the Holy Spirit?” he asked. “It’s a different time. And it can be a moment of great opportunity.”
The young people told Bishop Dunn they wanted more involvement in the parishes and a better understanding of their faith.
“It’s very important to me that our Catholic young people should be encouraged to engage and be enthusiastically involved in getting to know who they are and what they really want and how they can help to build communities,” said Lise Marie Schmidt from Avondale parish.
Jervis Ferreira, who is a parishioner and youth leader at Christ the King parish, Owairaka said it was humbling to know that the Church wants to hear the voice of the youth.
“It was clear that the youth of today are passionate about the faith. We are thirsty for knowledge and guidance on how we can better understand, practise, live out and share our faith with others. In order to do this, an increase in catechesis within the Church was emphasised,” he said.
“We recommended that these sessions need to be more accessible and better promoted. Parishes that hold these sessions could share resources and better promote it to neighbouring parishes that may not be able to run similar sessions.”
Auckland Catholic Youth and Young Adult Ministry team leader Teresa McNamara said they will be establishing working groups comprised of young people to look at all the data that was collected at the synod and come up with recommendations that will be given to different communities and individuals in the diocese.
“There will be listening opportunities and there will totally be ways for young people to contribute and lead the process. Young people are so creative and they have
great ideas that we would never think of,” she said.
The youth team had already made presentations to the Council of Priests based on the feedback they got from the synod. Bishop Dunn said one of the things he picked up from listening to the young people was they wanted more explanation of the Mass and what it means to be Catholic.
“I also picked up very clearly your suggestions that perhaps, priests be . . . given more instructions on the homilies, how to keep the homilies brief and relevant,” he said.
On the matter of on-going education, Bishop Dunn said there are already opportunities for this in the diocese and that it might be just a matter of connecting people with what they need.
Ms McNamara said another feedback was for youth gatherings to be affordable, if not free.
“One of them spoke about the Aotearoa Catholic Youth Festival last year. The $95 price tag was too high for them,” she said.
Bishop Dunn noted the variety of requests and recommendations made.
“In a sense, it’s all a little bit messy,” he said. “Pope Francis is sort of saying the Church has got to be more like this. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bit messy because the Holy Spirit works through the mess.”