International Youth Forum XI : DAY ONE BLOG
The 11th International Youth Forum began with prayer (which included the WYD08 theme song) and a short welcome from Cardinal Farrell and Cardinal Baldisseri before each of the 200+ delegates were called by name and welcomed by Fr Joao Chagas, Head of the Youth Office for the Dicastery of Laity, Family and Life. A fitting and exciting beginning to such an important gathering to discuss how young people and the whole Church are called to carry forward the fruits of the General Synod on young people and the Apostolic Exhortation, Christus Vivit.
After an extended explanation of the three year process and journey of the Synod, the rest of the day was rightly dedicated to the voice of young people sharing their experiences of being part of the synod or how the synod has impacted the church locally around the world.
A personal highlight was listening to Joyce Zako, National Youth Coordinator for the Uganda Episcopal Conference. Joyce shared of the comprehensive and dynamic youth ministry programming in Uganda which included programs for catechesis, drama and music, sports ministry, lay leadership and more as she revealed ministry after ministry in Uganda with such joy and hope.
In the afternoon the young people broke into discussion groups to share the impact of the General Synod locally. Our own Holly Roberts was invited to be a group moderator, as well as Isabelle McCaffery from New Zealand. Several common themes emerged, although it was difficult to capture all the feedback from 18 groups reporting back for nearly 70 minutes.
Some young people spoke of how they hadn’t heard of the Synod until they were invited to attend the Forum, calling for better communication across all church life. Some shared of the great joy and transformation of being involved in one of the international pre-synod gatherings or a dynamic local synod engagement, often remarking at the surprise of being asked to contribute. Several comments highlighted the need for the Church to work with young people, not just for young people.
There were also many examples of the joys and challenges of youth and adult relationships within the church, mainly focused on inviting young people into leadership and handing over responsibilities.
It may seem strange that a youth minister, such as myself, is at this youth forum. However, a small group of experienced youth ministers have been invited to explore Christus Vivit with the young people. While the young people broke into discussion groups, the youth ministers came together to discuss a greater international sharing and collaboration in carrying the learnings from the Synod forward.
After many years of advocating for such dialogue it was beautiful as those around the circle shared ideas and feedback on a variety of strategies. The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life are truly working differently to create greater dialogue and collaboration across the Universal Church.
Tomorrow we explore Christus Vivit directly. I look forward to hearing how other countries are responding and how the young people themselves want to see it carried forward.