…"Drawing together creates the conditions for the Church to become a place of dialogue and a witness to life-giving fraternity". We need to make more room for the voices of young people to be heard: "listening makes possible an exchange of gifts in a context of empathy… At the same time, it sets the conditions for a preaching of the Gospel that can touch the heart truly, decisively and fruitfully".Pope Francis, Christus Vivit 38
Last year, I served as a catechist for the freshman class in my parish and it was a fun and humbling experience. Over the course of the year, we journeyed through Scripture, discussed hot topics, and prayed together. One of my favorite experiences was conducting a National Dialogue youth listening session and parent listening session.
The National Dialogue (https://www.nationaldialogue.info/) is a collaborative initiative seeking to more deeply understand the lived experience of youth and young adults so that as a Church, we can transform our ministry practice to more effectively encounter and accompany the young church.
During our session, young people were pleasantly surprised with the intentional focus we had on listening to them and learning about their experiences and desires. In their respective session, parents were eager to share their hopes for how the Church could more actively engage and serve their families. Our parish learned of the important dynamics that are affecting our young people as well as their hopes for the Church. Teens described how they struggled with drama at school and the joy of good friends. They shared how busy and stressed they were with things at school, yet wanted more activities at the parish. They revealed how influential social media was to them and described how they admittedly used their phone too much. They plainly wanted an experience of Church that connected with what they were going through and helped them draw closer to Christ.
In their session, parents shared their desire for more retreats and opportunities to connect with the pastor. They admitted that many families are lacking formation and want opportunities to grow in faith together. They desire an active, vibrant, and engaging Church that is responsive the needs of the community.
Our parish is still reaping the fruits of these important listening sessions and continuing to understand their implications for our ministries.
I invite all parishes to participate in the National Dialogue and host their own conversation. Guides are available for diverse settings and in English and Spanish.
As the Center for Ministry Development continues to collaborate with the National Dialogue, we would like to extend a Youth Ministry Access youth session that outlines a gathered youth night with actively engaged youth. We pray that this can serve you well in drawing you closer to your young people and their families.
Open us to the beauty of dialogue
that allows us to hear with our hearts
and speak with our souls.
May our conversations ignite your Spirit within us
to go out into the world as missionary disciples.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.