International News

Day 2: International Seminar on Young People in Rome

Thursday 14 September 2017

Ashleigh Green, Australian Representative
Preparing for the Synod of Bishops on Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment
Reflection on Day 2
In John 1: 35-42, the disciples ask Jesus where He is going. Jesus doesn’t reply with a complicated explanation. He simply says, ‘Come and see,’ and the disciples spend the day with Him. In this morning’s biblical meditation we were led through a reflection on this passage. The importance of ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’ in our youth ministry was emphasised, but when we broke into small groups later in the day, I was struck by the comment of one my fellow delegates: ‘What happens when we don’t have anything attractive to show them?’ she asked. ‘What happens if our churches, in fact, are places that turn our young people away?’

The key question, then, is how can the Church become more relevant to young people? It was Untitled design (9)agreed that relevance begins with a genuine understanding of the reality for young people and real engagement with contemporary social issues. Identity, employment and migration were the key issues that were discussed today, and the intersection of these issues with faith.

I was struck by the comment of one delegate who noted an increase in alternative economic models which put people before profits. However, many of the ground-breaking models we see are coming from outside the Church. She urged more Church-based organisations to live out Pope Francis’ concept of ‘integral ecology’. As a Church we talk a lot about ecology and sustainability, but a young Nigerian man put up his hand and asked why even the transcripts from this seminar were printed in Italian on one-sided paper. ‘Most of us don’t even speak in Italian,’ he said, which drew some laughs, but which pointed to what many young people perceive as a disconnect between talk and action. Ultimately, young people are drawn to authenticity and desire a Church that lives out its teachings.

It is inspiring to be in the presence of such passionate, active, young Catholics. The 20 young people at this seminar have decided to take our contribution a step further, and we have arranged an impromptu, self-organised meeting tomorrow night. We will meet after dinner, and each of us will have one minute to answer the question, ‘Imagine you had one minute to talk to the Pope and Cardinals. What would you say?’ We will compile our responses into a document of our own initiative, which we will present to Cardinal Baldisseri at the conclusion of the week. In the words of one of the youth delegates, ‘We have come so far from every corner of the globe. We want to make this week count.’

The day ended with a night of music and dance at a safe-house for refugees, run by Jesuit Refugee Services. We talked, ate, danced and sang with refugees our own age, witnessing first-hand some of the great pastoral work of the Church in Rome. There were many encounters today that filled me with a profound sense of hope and a deeper experience of the body of Christ.
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