Youth Synod: Listening and Learning About Young People’s Needs

A Synod on Youth that has been taking place at the Vatican since October 3rd is wrapping up this weekend, and many are wondering what the results of the Youth Synod will be, and what impact it will have on young people in the Church and throughout the world.

Sr. Brittany Harrison, aka Sister B, campus minister at Mary Help of Christians Academy in North Haledon, NJ, stopped by Morning Air® this week to reflect on the Youth Synod and its potential effects on the Church.

As someone who works with teenagers every day, Sister B said, “Young people are so vital in the life of the Church, and have so much potential for holiness and greatness. And so to see the Church actually turning attention to young people, and having a synod about young people that also includes young people present at the Synod, this is a very historic moment.”

If you’re wondering what exactly a Synod entails, Sister B broke it down for us. She explained, “They’re going to be finishing up a document. Right now they’ve been meeting in small groups – some broken up by language and some by topic – to break down the initial document that they had written, the one that is called instrumentum laboris. And they’ve been going through it section by section to suggest revisions, areas where there needs to be more discussion, or questions answered.”

“Then following the Synod, the new document that is produced will be promulgated, and will hopefully be a source of inspiration, especially for those of us who work with young people.”

Youth Synod

Sister B discussed how one of the key components of the Synod involves listening to young people and their stories. After recent scandals in the Church, some of those stories do involve being hurt, betrayed, and disappointed in the Church, but the hope is that by listening to young people’s perspective, the Church can better listen, learn, and heal.

Sister B told Morning Air host John Harper, “Through this Synod, the Holy Father and the bishops gathered have been listening to the stories of young people and young adults in the Church who have come from a variety of cultures and experiences – including those who have had difficult experiences in the Church. And they are being challenged to reflect on the stories of these young Catholics and figure out how we as a Church family and Church community can better meet their needs and be a more living and dynamic presence of Christ for them.”

The Youth Synod comes at a time when studies are showing that 80% of Millennials have left the Catholic Church, and that most had abandoned their faith in their early teen years. Sister B addressed the reports about young people leaving the Church, and how adult Catholics can give young people what they most need – a personal encounter with the Lord and a challenge to holiness.

“When they do leave it’s usually 13 or 14 that they’ve already mentally or emotionally left the Church, even though their families are still dragging them to church against their will” she said. “But I’m seeing kind of the opposite here at Mary Help of Christians Academy where I’m a campus minister. I see an influx of young people embracing the faith, and embracing it with great dedication.”

“I think if you want to ask what the magic formula is, it’s not really magic at all. It’s just challenging young people to become saints and offering them models and opportunities to grow in a relationship with God.”

Sister B suggested that the key to evangelizing young people is relationships with Catholic adults who are on fire with their faith, who can show them that holiness is the path to true fulfillment. She said that young people who see Catholics as role models in marriage, family life, prayer, and suffering can have more of an effect than any program or class.

“They can smell inauthenticity, and they can detect if we’re not on fire for what we’re presenting to them,” she said. “They don’t want to be mediocre. They want to be really intensely dedicated to whatever they embrace. So if they can find a challenge to holiness, they are going to embrace that if they find it among us as Catholics.”

Listen to the full segment with Sister B and audio clips of Bishop Robert Barron discussing the Synod below:

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