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Conversation, listening essential for synod on youth

INDIANAPOLIS — At a time when an estimated 50 percent of Catholics 30 and younger no longer identify with their religion, the U.S. bishops June 14 discussed the need to reverse that trend and why the consultation process for the October 2018 Synod of Bishops on youth and vocations is crucial to that effort.

Listening to young people is essential to the conversation, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J.

"This is a time to learn from youth and young adults, to listen to their stories and to engage them in authentic dialogue," he said. "We can also remember that youth and young adults are the agents, not the objects, of this process and of this synod. So they must have as much at stake in this as we do."

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia shared two main questions for bishops to consider:

• How can bishops most effectively accompany youth and young adults in their baptismal call to missionary discipleship and in their vocational discernment — whether marriage, ordained ministry or consecrated life?

• How is The U.S. Catholic Church listening to youth and young adults, and what are the best practices in the ministry of accompaniment that are worth sharing with the universal church at the synod?

"Some at least have this insight of experiencing this tremendous apparent freedom they have, that is actually another form of enslavement — this freedom from moral norms," said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kans. "They were actually seen as something that paralyzes them."

The conversation about young people and faith among the bishops started after a presentation by John Cavadini, a theology professor from the University of Notre Dame.

Cavadini, who also is director of the university's Institute for Church Life, shared a talk with the bishops that he called, "The Baptismal Vocation in the Light of Vocational Discernment of Young People."

"Apart from the problem of evil, perhaps the hardest thing for young people to negotiate is the Church itself," Cavadini noted. "Why the church? Why is it worth belonging? What's the point of that vocation? Aren't there other ways to become exclamation points for goodness? Can't I just be a good person?'"

Cavadini stressed that by virtue of baptism people are called to something deeper in their lives — a connection to Christ, the Eucharist and the Catholic Church.

Shaughnessy is assistant editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. 

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