The next synod of bishops in 2018 will be themed on "young people, the faith, and vocational discernment." I'm excited to think the entire Church will be discussing its ministry to young people over the next few years. I believe it's an important and urgent conversation that needs to be had.
Pope Francis addressed young people in a moving letter before the press conference that introduced the preparatory document last week. He warmly gives the reason for the next synod's theme by writing, "I wanted you to be the centre of attention, because you are in my heart." He reminds young people that the Church "wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism."
The preparatory document that became available in the press conference last week was described by Pope Francis as a "compass" on this synodal journey. The preparatory document is filled with rich elements of encounter, accompaniment, and discipleship. Far from being empty buzzwords, they represent a rich and profound theology that has great implications for our pastoral work with young people. The document quickly stretches the reader to think of young people beyond those in youth group or involved in any particular youth program. Rather, it casts the reader's sight on the lively experience of adolescence, with its longing to directly impact the world as well as the challenge of obstacles from healthy development and expression.
In the preparatory document for this synod, some important points for consideration are identified among its three main chapters. The first chapter, entitled Young People in Today's World, describes the impacts of a rapid-changing world, distinctions among this particular generation of young people, and young people's ability to choose. The second chapter, entitled Faith, Discernment, Vocation, describes the relationship of faith and vocation, insights on three principal steps of discernment (recognition, interpreting, and choosing), the relationship between vocation and mission, and the role of accompaniment among young people. Lastly, the third chapter, entitled Pastoral Activity, describes the movements of walking with young people, and particular insights to noteworthy agents, places and resources.
The document ends with a number of questions that need to be addressed as well as particular questions for each geographic region (given their unique pastoral concerns). There's also mention of a opportunity for young people to participate in a direct way in the consultation process. They can provide their feedback to "questions on their expectations and their lives" via a website.