Forty Catholic Youth Ministry Federation members and colleagues from England & Wales have gathered at the Casa Bonus Pastor in Rome for a conference and retreat coinciding with Synod 2018. CYMFed members fill us in on what’s happening:
On 16th October, Fr Dominic Howarth opened proceedings by celebrating Mass at the Casa Bonus Pastor with the whole group.
The first speaker was Mr Paul Jarzembowski, an assistant to the US Bishops at the Synod. Paul spoke about the experience so far at the Synod, and how among other things, the ‘sacred middle space’, ie, the ‘wise and generous guides’ are hugely important to young people today. He noted four key trends experienced in the US today;
- Tensions, fear and insecurity regarding culture and race relations
- The huge rise in those who have no affiliation to any particular religion (in the US one third of all adults under 35 identify as having no religious connection)
- The constant pressures on young people – “do I matter?” – the need to succeed, the feeling of being overwhelmed.
- The lack of support for young people in ‘transition’ – at times of crisis – youth to adult – single to marriage – school to college – family breakup – financial pressures
Today across the west, young people are seeking safe places, safe environments, a place, a home – and somewhere where they can lead in ministry.
He also spoke of what was successful in the US – national gatherings (‘big church’); retreats; pilgrimages; places where pastors knew the names of young people; dioceses that have invested in youth ministry; culturally based ministry – and particularly the Synod process – this is the first Vatican document on young people.
What topics have come out of the first week of the Synod?
- The globalness of the Church
- The need for mentorship of the young
- A better balance between the ‘listening church’ and the ‘teaching church’
- The role of the laity, especially women
- The digital world
- Young people who are engaged and on board
The second speaker of the day was Dr Káren North of St Mary’s Twickenham, who spoke to the delegates about ‘why young people are still practising their faith.’ She had spent time researching young committed Catholics, particularly in University or in Seminary and Religious Life. She found that young people need and long for ‘a life of love’.
Pope Francis in 2018 wrote; “Do not allow the spark of youth to be extinguished in the darkness of a closed room in which the only window to the outside world is a computer and smart-phone.”
Later on in the day, the whole group spent an hour visiting the Youth Office at the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.
The day concluded with evening prayer and dinner.
An early start was made on Wednesday, joining the thousands who were assembling to hear Pope Francis at the General Audience, and in the evening, the group joined the community of The Venerable English College, Rome for Mass, where Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Bishops Ralph Heskett and Mark O’Toole shared their insights on the Synod.
On Thursday morning, the Conference was addressed by Fr Paul Farren Director of the Derry Diocesan Catechetical Centre which is responsible for Youth Ministry. His talk was entitled: ‘Hope challenges us, moves us and shatters that conformism which says, “it’s always been done like this”
The afternoon was spent sharing good practice and youth ministry ideas.