Local award-winners offer views on pre-synod document

Pope Francis speaks at a pre-synod gathering of youth delegates at the Pontifical International Maria Mater Ecclesiae College in Rome March 19. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Some 300 young people from around the world gathered in Rome March 19-24 to talk about the issues they are facing in the world today.

This meeting was meant to gear up for the Synod of Bishops which will take place this October. The official theme of the synod, chosen by Pope Francis, is “Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment.”

In the span of just a few short days, the young people created a document that will be shared with the bishops this fall.

“The young person of today is met with a host of external and internal challenges and opportunities, many of which are specific to their individual contexts and some of which are shared across continents,” the document begins. “In light of this, it is necessary for the Church to examine the way in which it thinks about and engages with young people in order to be an effective, relevant and life-giving guide throughout their lives.”

To read the full document, visit https://bit.ly/2GyROEi.

The Visitor asked some of its past Youth and Young Adult Award winners to read the document and answer three questions:

  • What is one thing that you connected with in the document?
  • What is one thing that challenged you?
  • What is one question or comment you still have after reading it?

Their responses are below.

Alaina Laing

Alaina Laing, 18
Senior, Albany High School
St. Benedict Parish, Avon

One of the things I connected with in this document is when they talked about having mentors. Young people need mentors they can look up to. They need people they can talk to for help in continuing their faith life. Without the mentors I have followed, there is no way I would be where I am today. I have lots of mentors in my life, including my parents, my grandma, and my music minister/youth minister at my parish, Jason Prigge.

I have been volunteering in my home parish for almost a year and my music minister has really shown me how to truly live out my faith. He has shown me what a true leader is. He continues to surprise me and help me in ways I have needed. He has a strong connection with the youth he works with and always makes sure the youth are his number one priority when he is at work. That is what we young people need. We need the support and encouragement.

One of the things I have struggled with while volunteering and after reading the document is trying to find my place in the church. The document talks about young people trying to find their sense of belonging, and sometimes it can be scary. It wasn’t easy for me at first. I did a lot to get where I am today. When I first started becoming more involved, there were things that scared me and had me thinking about turning back. I as well as others think about what others think about them. Still to this day, I struggle with that a little bit, but there are always my mentors who have been there for me since day one that have helped me along the way.

Faith really has become private for a lot of individuals. They hide it, thinking it is better that way. For some it might be, but others not as much. For me, keeping it private didn’t help. I have found my relationship with God. I love where I am in my faith life. I wouldn’t want it to be any different.

Michelle Litke

Michelle Litke, 37
Teacher, Holy Trinity School, Pierz
St. Joseph Parish, Pierz

The pre-synod document states: “It can seem that the Church forgets that the people are the Church, not the building.“ I have heard from many people (young adults and those older) that they don’t feel welcome at the Catholic Church. We need to do a better job at making people feel welcome, but more importantly, as God’s church, we need to be inviting.

The document continues: “This sense of belonging and family sustains these young people on their journey. Without this anchor of community support and belonging, young people can feel isolated in the face of challenges. There are many young people who do not feel the need to be part of the Church community and who find meaning to their life outside of the Church.”

As a mom with four young children, and having worked with youth, I feel that it is important to address this need. This is something I can do as a mom, as a Catholic schoolteacher and as a parishioner. Someone once said at one of our parish council meetings quite a while back, “If we aren’t a part of the solution, then we are a part of the problem.” That stuck with me, and I don’t think we have to do something huge to be a part of the solution. What if every parishioner took 10 seconds before Mass to make a point to say hello or good morning to someone they don’t know well. Or, what if every family invited just one other person to Mass that is or is not Catholic? There are so many people who have fallen away from the Catholic Church and are not going to Mass, but rarely does anyone go to these people to find out why and to let them know that they are missed. If each one of us showed that concern and love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, amazing things could happen.

How can we come together to make this happen? Ideally, we would all do our part, but that probably won’t happen. It is going to be a waterfall effect. Who are the people that are going to start this waterfall? How can I do my part to start the waterfall in my church community?

Jarett Edwards

Jarett Edwards, 18
Senior, Kimball High School
St. Anne Parish, Kimball

One thing that I connected with in the document was that the church should be more transparent.

The Saturday Mass before Palm Sunday was an ordinary one, that is until the last five minutes of Mass. Father had reminded the congregation of when confessions were available, and he also mentioned that general absolution was only for emergencies and should not replace confession. Someone was upset by this. Though general absolution has been excluded for some time, that doesn’t change the fact that some are still going [to communal penance services with the understanding that it “counts” as confession]. This was an instance where perhaps the person was uninformed about the rules. I just wish the church was clearer about some its rules, or better at informing people about them.

One thing that is currently challenging me is the church’s view on homosexuality. There has been a civil war going on in my school. One side is Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), while the other group is essentially anti-GSA. The two groups have been clashing in poster wars, and I find myself supporting both sides. No, I do not believe that gay marriage is OK, but I also believe that they should have a place where they can feel safe from all the torment. After all, despite their choices they are still made in God’s image and should not be spared from his love.

I have a suggestion: At Mass there should be a weekly or monthly miracle. Not a physical miracle, but a story of one. Sometimes I listen to the stories of the Bible, and how God was so involved in the lives of these amazing people, then I wonder, “Where is he now?” I would like to hear more about the ways in which God is present to people in their daily lives.

The Visitor is the official newpaper for the Diocese of Saint Cloud.

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