Pope Francis called on young people to be the Church now and for people of faith to make room for the youth in the Church, said the two New Zealand representatives to a post-synod youth forum, Isabella McCafferty and Joey Bonnevie.
Miss McCafferty, who is Young Church Ministries coordinator for Wellington archdiocese, and Mr Bonnevie, who is Auckland Youth and Young Adult Ministry programme leader, participated in the forum held in Rome from June 19-22.
Miss McCafferty said this forum, for her, is a culmination of three years’ work on the role of youth in the Church.
“I’d been lucky enough to get involved . . . internationally, but also locally. [The forum] . . . reaffirmed the need for the whole Church to really take them (young people) seriously, not just particular parts of the Church who are engaged with young people already — and just how important this moment is in our history as people of faith,” she said.
“In Christus Vivit, Pope Francis is just trying to speak really personally to people about who God is and how that affects our identity, that we are loved. And that is the most important thing. I really felt that the young people who were there, we just really grabbed on to that idea,” she added.
Mr Bonnevie said he felt a bit overwhelmed at first, but the experience really helped him take stock of his ministry for young people.
“At the beginning, one of the cardinals said Pope Francis is reminding us that we are not an important part of the Church, but that the young people are the Church, that they have a part to play now. And at the end, when in his address to us, Pope Francis said, ‘the Church needs you so that she can be fully herself’,” Mr Bonnevie said.
“I think, just those two lines really say a lot about where young people fit.”
Miss McCafferty and Mr Bonnevie said they are more determined to be advocates for young people in the Church. The two are going to give presentations to the New Zealand bishops and the Church’s National Council for Young People about their experiences at the forum.
They said it was good to meet with young people from different parts of
the world and to see commonalities and differences.
“I feel in some countries, they find it hard to engage with their bishops. Whereas, I recognise how blessed we are to be able to engage with our bishops to make things happen within our context,” said Mr Bonnevie.
Miss McCafferty said that, at this stage, Christus Vivit, the Pope’s exhortation to young people and the entire People of God, still needs to be unpacked.
“People don’t really know about it, necessarily, and they haven’t engaged with it yet. We talked a lot about that, about how great Christus Vivit is, but also how can we actually make it accessible to people in our context? If young people aren’t going to read the document, what can we all do to make it come to life in different ways? We talked quite a bit about that,” she said.
Meeting the Pope was of great significance for the two New Zealanders.
“When we met him, I wasn’t sure what
I was going to say. I said, ‘I’m Joey and I’m from New Zealand’ and I thanked him for Christus Vivit, this exhortation that’s encouraging us to move forward in our ministry with young people. He said to me, ‘pray for me’. I felt like that was an invitation for me to accompany him through prayer. And it was a profound moment,” Mr Bonnevie said.
“Obviously, being able to meet Pope Francis was a massive highlight for us. The thing that struck me the most was the authenticity of him and his humanness. We could communicate non-verbally and you can sense, over and above everything else, that he, as a leader, his heart is totally in God and nothing else,” said Miss McCafferty.
“The humanity of him as a leader really encouraged me to consider that
authenticity in my own life and [has] also given me that sense of hope for
who we are as a people of faith as well.”
She said being able to shake hands with Pope Francis was a real gift. “He’s
also got a very strong handshake which I was very impressed with,” she said.