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Province Prepares for Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment

This photo of Paul O’Keeffe, John Coughlin and Sr. Suzanne Kush with young people (including postulant Jason Damon) from St. Bonaventure University was used in a letter from the General Minister to the friars regarding the 2018 synod.

An initiative launched by the Vatican is taking root in Holy Name Province and gaining momentum at the local level.

To prepare for the 2018 Synod of Bishops, friars and lay youth/young adult ministers around the Province are connecting with young people to gather their ideas about the Church. The information that they compile will be submitted to the Order of Friars Minor and, in turn, to the Vatican to help the Church determine how it can better lead young people to the fullness of life and love.

The Provincial Office distributed to nearly 40 ministry sites – parishes, colleges and universities where friars serve, as well as the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry – information about how to compile feedback from laypeople between the ages of 16 and 39 through the use of forums. After the forums, the friars and lay ministers who work with young people have been asked to complete a questionnaire about findings from the event and to send the responses to the HNP Vocation Office, which will send them to the General Curia, the Order’s headquarters.

The Provincial Council appointed vocation director Basil Valente, OFM, to lead the initiative to coordinate the collection of feedback from young people who attend the Province’s ministries – high school and college students, and young adults.

Significance of the Project
“Young people are our future,” said Kevin. “Supporting and encouraging these forums will be helpful not only for the synod but also for Holy Name Province. During the previous two Provincial Chapters, Holy Name Province prioritized working with young people and attracting them to the Franciscan movement and the Church. The Provincial Council sees this synod as contributing to that initiative.”

Next year’s bishops’ gathering – officially called the 15th Ordinary Assembly of Bishops: Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment – will take place at the Vatican in October.

“The synod promises to be an extraordinary event the life of the Church,” said General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, in a letter published in February in which he invites OFM friars to review the letter from Pope Francis to young people as well as the synodal preparatory document.

In May of this year, the Synodal Council will launch a website specifically for young people, so they may send their contributions directly to the Holy See, he added. The address for this site will be www.sinodogiovani.va.

“Perhaps [the forum] you create for our younger sisters and brothers could include time for them to respond to the Holy Father via this website,” he said. “This would certainly be one creative way in which to demonstrate both the Holy Father’s love for them and our own.”

Enthusiasm of HNP Friars
Holy Name Province members have enthusiastically responded to the request to gather information from young people.

Francis Di Spigno, OFM, executive vice president of university ministries at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York, said that researching what young people want and need is important. He cites a book that revealed helpful information.

“The book ‘You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church… and Rethinking Faith’ says that it is not that people stopped going to church, it is that the Church stopped going to the young people,” said Francis, who served as the Province’s vocation director from 2000 to 2005.

“We at SBU are planning to hold two forums, one at lunchtime and one in the evening, to attract as many participants as possible,” said Francis, emphasizing that though this is a busy time of year on campuses, the project is a valuable opportunity and should be addressed. “I am grateful to Pope Francis for once again asking important questions as well as seeking input from the universal Church.”

In South Carolina, Robert Menard, OFM, the campus chaplain at Clemson University, said he is looking forward to the synod.

“I am especially excited about the ‘Pope Francis wants to hear from you!’ campaign as a lead-up to this major event,” he said. “Young people have much to say to the Church. They are our front-line interpreters translating the rapid social, political and technological changes swirling around us. They are also unfettered seekers searching for the deeper spiritual meaning embedded within these changes. As St. John Henry Newman reminded us, the mind of the faithful – ‘sensus fidelium’ – is an essential element in developing the teaching of the Church. Pope Francis urging bishops, pastors, and youth to gather together to share their observations, concerns and ideas is an example of this theological note being taken seriously by the Church.”

He added, “Here at Clemson, we will be having several group gatherings – small and large – to inform our students, faculty and staff about the pope’s desire to hear from them. At these gatherings, we will engage in conversation and urge the young adults to participate online in the dialogue with Pope Francis. The finding of these gatherings will be then sent to our Vocation Office for delivery to the pope.”

Participants are asked to email the feedback they obtain from young adults in their ministries to Vocation Office staff member Benjamin Simpson before May 31. Those who have questions about the process for gathering information from young adults, the questionnaire, or the project as a whole, are invited to contact Simpson at bsimpson@hnp.org

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

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