Young people are emerging leaders and an important part of the Church and of their communities, schools and society at large. The Catholic Church in the United States defines youth as people ages 12-18 in junior high school and high school.
Likewise, young adults are a key part of the Church, people ages 19-39 who are single or married, divorced or widowed, and in college, working, unemployed, incarcerated or in the military.
This week’s issue of the St. Louis Review carries a story on the teens from across the Midwest experiencing the restoring love of Jesus at the annual Steubenville STL Mid-America youth conferences. Another article details the efforts of Emma Heienickle, a University of Missouri-Columbia student who ties her faith to her environmental activism and led a track for youth and young adults at the annual Catholic Climate Covenant conference.
Pope Francis offers praise for similar efforts by young people. He lifts up youth and young adults, in particular those on the margins who feel disconnected from our faith communities.
Jesus invites all generations into His loving embrace.
The Vatican’s Synod of Bishops on young people in 2018 reported that the Catholic Church and its members must get better at listening to young people, taking their questions seriously, recognizing them as full members of the Church, patiently walking with them and offering guidance as they discern the best way to live their faith.
Pope Francis said that many young people want to know and understand the teachings of the Church and, despite what many people think, they long for and need times of silent reflection and opportunities to serve their communities.
In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Office of Young Adult Ministry, for example, supports vibrant and visible communities that empower young adults to grow in their relationship with Christ and His Church. The ideal is for young adults to become transformative leaders in their parishes, communities and the world. As the U.S. bishops noted, their insights can help us grow as a Church and guide us as we all learn to become better missionary disciples in an intercultural and intergenerational context.
We all must get better at listening to young people, taking their questions seriously and recognizing them as full members of the Church. As the pope stated, “we cannot just say that young people are the future of our world. They are its present; even now, they are helping to enrich it.”