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Catholic Voices prepares for Synod on "Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment" next October
A group of Catholic Voices members welcomed Isaac Withers at a meeting in London on Monday 9thApril to hear of his experiences as the representative of the CBCEW at the youth pre-synodal gathering in Rome from 19thto 24th March, ahead of the XV Synod of Bishops in October. The theme of the synod is “Youth, faith and vocational discernment”
Isaac was one of 300 representatives from around the world covering many nationalities, ethnicities, languages and career paths. They included young religious as well those in secular work, and reflected all aspects of life today. Not all the group were Catholics, it included other denominations of Christians as well as Sikh and Muslim representatives, and also atheists.
He described the experience as a series of surprises – being chosen as the representative from the Church in England and Wales; being picked as one of the team writing the final report; and the extent to which the young people were able to direct the process as they felt it needed to go.
Most important was the sense of closeness to the Pope. Pope Francis attended the first morning of the meeting and spent four hours with the group. He expressed great concern for young people in the world today, especially regarding the effect on them of unemployment, substance abuse, suicide and disorientation of family life.
Francis spoke of youth building a new culture; the Church's heart is young…without taking risks you become old, you could be retired at 20! He also warned of being without roots leading to no stability. The church should be grounded in the wisdom of older people.
Isaac described how a biblical quotation became an important driver of the event for him:
“and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy: your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions”. (Joel 2:28)
Isaac then outlined the task of reducing all the contributions of the group to a single report. This included many thousands of contributions to an online forum. What seemed a mountainous task at first became easier as it became clear that many of the participants were expressing similar ideas. The document took rapid shape, through three separate drafts.
The final document was presented to the full group to applause, and submitted to Pope Francis. It will help form the working documents for the full Synod in October.