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Emilie Callan, center, a synod delegate from Canada, attended a working group at the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 10. Callan was a pre-synod delegate and works with Canada’s Salt and Light Television.
Emilie Callan, center, a synod delegate from Canada, attended a working group at the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 10. Callan was a pre-synod delegate and works with Canada’s Salt and Light Television.
Photo Credit: Vatican Media

Synod groups focus on need for qualified accompaniment

Second week of discussions centered on discernment, vocations and accompaniment

VATICAN CITY — In their second round of reports to the Synod of Bishops, a number of working groups called for qualified and, in some way, supervised spiritual mentors or directors, recommended including more female figures from the Bible as examples and role models for young people, and praised having the inspiring input of young people during the gathering.

The second week of discussions centered on discernment, vocations and accompaniment, and the 14 working groups, which are divided by language, each came up with a number of suggestions, critiques and recommendations for the synod’s final document. The Vatican released the reports Oct. 16.

Working group English-A, which includes bishops from the United States, Australia, Ireland and England, said the synod “came alive” when young people gave their interventions, with one bishop in the group commenting, “I never realized a synod could be so much fun!”

The group recommended the final document present “a clear definition of vocation,” keeping in mind it should be speaking not only to practicing Catholics, but also to the “nones.”

The group also suggested including in the final document “a distinct treatment of the response of Mary to God’s call” and seeing her as the “archetypal disciple.”

While recognizing the key role families, friends and schools play in accompanying young people on their faith journey, the English-A group emphasized the need for “trained mentors” who had proper formation as well as “accompaniment/supervision” themselves so they could be effective spiritual guides.

The English-B group proposed that young people be prompted to “connect with Jesus’ youth and understand their lives in its light,” for example, by recognizing how Jesus personally experienced many young people’s struggles, such as being a refugee, growing up in an “underprivileged household,” being misunderstood at times by family and unappreciated by others.

The English-C group praised the use in the synod working document of examples and people from the Bible as concrete reference points for young people, but questioned its inclusion of figures such as Joshua since he led an army of conquest and Esther, whose example “is also full of violence and trickery.”

In an effort to pinpoint what “true” accompaniment would look like, the group said:

— It must respect that discernment belongs to the person being accompanied, not the mentor, avoiding all forms of manipulation and well-intentioned, but “inappropriate” forms of mentorship.

— The final document should develop further “respect for the freedom and conscience of the person being accompanied.”

— Accompaniment needs “a climate of friendliness, trust and warmth,” without the mentor losing needed objectivity and the ability to offer “fraternal correction.”

The importance of formation for mentors and spiritual directors also received much discussion in the English-D group, which included bishops from Canada and the United States, such as Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles.

Even though one member of the group insisted “any baptized person can be an effective even powerful role model in the Christian life,” the group as a whole felt “the art of authentic spiritual mentorship requires specific training” and expertise.

Some in the group “warned that spiritual teachers too frequently devolve into gurus and encourage a cult of personality around themselves,” so “unmentored mentors” are not wanted or needed in the Church.

The group noted “with a certain sadness that many prospective mentors today, especially in the West, are reluctant to enter into a relationship with a directee for fear that they might be accused of boundary violations.”

Group members also praised the use of biblical figures and their lives to help inspire young people, however, several young women in the group recommended the inclusion of more women “who cooperated mightily with the Lord,” such as Mary, Ruth, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail and Tabitha.

The French-A group said the spiritual accompaniment of an individual “does not do everything” and underlined the essential role of the family, peer groups and the community in “awakening” young people to God’s call and helping them live a virtuous life.

The French-B group requested that the final document cover the training of those who accompany or guide young people, because without the necessary skills, “the process is doomed to failure.”

They also addressed needing to reach out to single, unmarried people and reminding them that they, too, have a vocation, which ultimately is becoming an “adopted” child of the Father in Christ. “This is why it seems to us that we cannot say that people living alone do not have a vocation or that they refuse a vocation.”


Abp. Gomez: Inspire young people to be ‘everyday saints’

By Anne Condodina | Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — To “capture the imagination” of young people and inspire them, Church leaders should offer them the example of modern saints and call young people to be “everyday saints, each in his or her own way,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles.

“We need to show young people what holiness looks like by living the Gospel we preach, proclaiming Jesus Christ by the way we live. We need to call young people to be saints — and we need to be saints ourselves,” Archbishop Gomez said in his speech Oct. 16 to the Synod of Bishops.

The “urgent priority of all our resolutions from this synod,” he said, should be to proclaim Jesus Christ and to call young people to conversion and new life in Christ.

Western societies, Archbishop Gomez said, offer young people “alternatives for self-creation rooted in the restless consumption of material comforts” instead of calling them “to goodness or beauty or truth.”

“Young people today do not know how to live authentic human lives because the adults of our secular society have not shown them the way,” he said.

However, he said he is confident the Church holds the answer that young people are looking for.

Reach out to the young people and “proclaim the Gospel as God’s beautiful plan of love for our lives,” he urged his brother bishops. By doing this, the dignity and destiny of the human person is revealed.

“God is calling young people to live their lives as a mission, following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and walking in the company of others who have met Him and made Him the ‘way’ for their lives,” Archbishop Gomez said.

Church leaders, he said, have a mission, which “requires that we model for young people how to pray as a conversation with God and how to contemplate the face of Christ in the pages of the Gospel.”

It also requires “boldly proclaiming and confidently living” the teachings of Christ and helping young people perform the works of mercy, engaging in service to the poor.

“Young people today demand and deserve what every human heart is longing for — the encounter with Jesus Christ,” the archbishop said.

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