Isabella McCafferty from Wellington archdiocese’s Family and Young Church Vicariate was one of 300 young people who gathered in Rome on March 19-24, 2018 for the pre-synod meeting which was a precursor to the October synod of bishops on “Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation”. Before that, Ms McCafferty and Auckland diocese Youth and Young Adult Ministry team leader Teresa McNamara were chosen as NZ delegates to an international meeting in Rome from April 5-9, 2017 organised by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life in collaboration with the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. The theme of that meeting was “From Krakow to Panama — The Synod Journeying with Young People”.

by ISABELLA McCAFFERTY

This document as a whole reads almost like a compilation of Pope Francis’ trending quotes from the past seven years. In many places he re-emphasises them in response to the last two years of listening intentionally in the lead-up to and during the synod of bishops. I mean that in the most positive sense, as throughout his pontificate, these words
have been a constant source of encouragement in my own faith journey and have inspired me in my ministry.

It has been interesting to read a document that both speaks to me personally as a young person as well as in my professional world of pastoral ministry in the Church. The first few chapters of the document address young people directly. The second part focuses more on the practical and practitioner approach; to youth ministry, vocation and discernment. I can feel Pope Francis’ desire for young people, for me, to encounter daily the love of God and the living person of Christ. Our Shepherd shows how much he
cares for his people and points us back to what is most essential.

Many of the key themes that have become central to this synodal journey and, indeed, my own experience of this
journey, are certainly reflected in this document. These include the importance of accompaniment, a synodal approach and listening, being able to acknowledge the sociological context in which young people find themselves, focusing on discernment and vocation. Finally, there is always a call to action and renewal on the part of young people and the Church.

A great document, a gift to the Church and a solid acknowledgement of the importance of our young people. But the challenge remains. This document (and indeed all of the work leading up to it) cannot be the closing of the door on the last two years of active listening and journeying with young people. Pope Francis’ final words address young people directly once again, urging us to keep running since “the Church needs your momentum, your intuitions, your faith. We need them!” [CV299] May the Church in Aotearoa make radical room for this momentum to move us forwards.

Here are a few practical suggestions to consider in light of this document and the journey that has brought it here. Some of these I have already been suggesting to those I have discussed these themes with over the past twelve months. As with anything, these suggestions are only a drop in the ocean of what we need to be open to if we are really to see substantial change as a result of this document and what it offers us.

Constantly return to our source — “God’s Word, the Eucharist, the daily presence of Christ and the power of the Spirit in our lives” [CV35] .

Come together — gather young people and the elderly to exchange dreams, with a look to the future [CV192].

Don’t get stuck asking “who am I?” or even “who are we?”, rather be bold enough to ask “for whom am I?” or who are we being called to live for — always our lives must look to the other [CV286].

Risk some time to engage with the document — but don’t let it stop there; be willing to listen, accompany and be moved into action as a result of what you encounter.

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