After months and months of waiting, preparing and praying for the Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, it is finally here! Taking place October 3 - 28 in Rome.
The United States is represented by bishop delegates and ordained and lay leaders from across the United States. The bishop delegates are:
Stay involved with the process by praying for the delegates, and that the Holy Spirit leads all in Church leadership to be open to the input and witnesses of the young people (focusing on ages 16 - 29 at this time, but pray also for all youth and young adults.) Additionally, you can follow the Synod:
On social media, use the hashtag: #synod2018
Catholic News Service:
The Vatican website on the Synod:
United Stated Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website on the Synod:
Ave Maria Press has posted some support articles and can email you weekly synopsis upon request. Check out this interview with Leonard DeLorenzo and Pre-Synodal delegate Katie Prejean McGrady:
And, if you are between the ages of 16 and 29, there is a Facebook group for you to be connected with the Synod (in English, although other languages are also available):
Following many years of success through parish and school programs as well as larger events such as World Youth Days, national youth conferences, diocesan youth conventions and other signs of the Church’s ministry by, with, for, and to youth and young adults, it is exciting that the Universal Church is taking this moment to focus on ministry to young people through a Synod and the accompanying consultation process.
In the Diocese of Youngstown surveys, it was encouraging to see the number and variety of responses representing ages from thirteen through adults, from all areas of the diocese, and representing all facets of the Church: priests, seminarians, staff and volunteers in addition to the direct input from high school youth and young adults. The surveys also seem to represent the broad spectrum of Catholic beliefs and practices.
The surveys clearly show that teens and young adults want “more” from the Church – more opportunities for leadership, service and relationship building. However, it is surprising that the surveys did not reflect the view of many in the diocese who have expressed in other forums the importance of increasing the financial dedication of our diocese, parishes and schools for both youth ministries and young adult ministries. Increased funding would allow for more full-time paid staff, more resources, more dedicated physical space, and more support for activities and faith experiences. The Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry has received many requests for financial assistance for young people to participate in local, regional, national, and international service, formation, spiritual and programs.
Aside from the funding issues, the surveys did clearly indicate an important focus for youth ministry and young adult ministry: community. The surveys of young people indicated they wanted a place where they belong and are listened to, as well as more welcoming communities in general. What seems to be working is where committed adults – priests, youth ministers, staff, and other caring adults – are present to teens and young adults. In these situations, the young people are more connected to the Church through these relationships.
It was interesting to note that the polarization in the American Church community was evident in our diocesan surveys, from a desire to greater access to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and an emphasis on traditional teachings to a more engaging Mass and changing Church teachings in areas such as priestly celibacy and LGBTQ community tolerance. Our diocese reflects the challenge of being a community rich in both unity and diversity.
The challenges that young people face in the culture present both an area of a concern and an opportunity for youth ministry and young adult ministry. Knowing the concerns of youth and young adults - especially peer-pressure, drugs (in particular heroin and alcohol), bullying, and anxiety – require a response of our faith communities to present an authentic witness of God’s love. Discernment is a skill that we must both teach to our young people and practice as a community to empower missionary disciples of all ages.
+ Did anything you read here surprise you?
+ Did anything affirm efforts you are already making for/with young people and their families?
+ In what ways might your faith community do more to help young people in regards to their faith and vocational discernment?
If you read the previous blog post about the Diocese of Youngstown Synod Surveys, Part 10, you may have noticed this:
<<other initiatives which are highlighted at the end of the report are a summer mission and discernment trip to Cumberland, Kentucky and St. Andrew discernment dinners.
Here is that additional information:
House of Discernment at the Catholic University within our diocese (Walsh).
The House of Discernment is under the charge of the Vocations Office and allows men to be fully engaged as an active student on campus while living in community in a setting that allows them to discern a possible calling to the priesthood. The men participate in communal prayer, formation conferences, service work in the community, and other formation elements. If the man feels called to the priesthood, he can move to a seminary setting before he completes college. If he determines he is not called to priesthood, he will move out of the discernment house into university housing.
The second activity is a mission and discernment trip to Cumberland, Kentucky.
Each summer in June, men ages 16 to 35 are invited to attend a mission and discernment trip. The Vocations office and seminarians organize the week for those who participate. During the day, the men work around the community helping repair homes for people in need. In the evening, the men work with the seminarians to discuss what they experienced in the day and its theological implications. In addition, they discuss various aspects of discernment and where God is present and working in their lives. (Note: This trip was not offered in 2018 as the program is under review, however, there had been success in previous years, and it may return for 2019.)
The third activity is a St. Andrew Discernment dinner.
Two times per year, the Vocation Office offers a dinner for high school men and older. The evening runs two hours long. It includes Evening Prayer, dinner, a discussion on discernment and priesthood. The Bishop is present at these dinners along with members of the Vocation team and any seminarians that can attend. Priests in each parish are encouraged to invite young men to the dinners and to attend with them. The combination of the dinner discussion and the discussion following is very fruitful as it gives participants the opportunity to ask personal questions and to understand vocations and discernment in a communal setting. Each dinner is hosted by a parish in the diocese.
(I feel like I should now flash that "The More You Know" logo from a certain TV station....since you may have learned something new about a couple of the initiatives in the diocese!)
Thank you for your continued interest in the 2018 Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. I hope that by breaking up the overall Diocese of Youngstown survey results and summary report, you have been able to take time to pause and reflect on many aspects of the theme.
As this process continues to move towards the October gathering of hundreds of bishops and cardinals, and we await the outcomes from the actual Synod, we can take small steps each day towards helping our youth and young adults to see their importance in our Church and our world!
A question in the Preparatory Document asked about ways we plan experiences for the pastoral vocational program for young people?
In the Diocese of Youngstown, the Office of Vocations reported several initiatives to help young people discern their vocation. There is a discernment retreat every December for men that includes personal and communal prayer, discussion with other young men who are discerning, informational sessions, and the opportunity to talk with current seminarians.
The Office of Vocations also encourages participation of junior high to college age men in the “live-in” weekends at the seminaries the diocese is connected to. The weekends offer the experience of what seminary is like, including attending classes, experiencing the prayer life, participating in community recreation, and learning how to discern their vocation.
The Office of Vowed Religious invites young people to participate in the annual “World Day for Consecrated Life” liturgy.
Along with the other five dioceses of Ohio, the Office of Vocations supports a YouTube channel (Buckeye Vocations) that highlights videos, such as highlights of ordinations, testimonials of seminarians, highlights from mission trips, and more.
Two other initiatives which are highlighted at the end of the report are a summer mission and discernment trip to Cumberland, Kentucky and St. Andrew discernment dinners.
The diocese also shares announcements from the women’s religious communities in the diocese about discernment events, retreats, and other experiences.
Discernment and vocations are topics of workshops and hands-on-learning experiences at the biennial Diocesan Youth Convention and at the National Catholic Youth Conference.
Regarding spiritual guidance:
As reported by the Office of Vocations, clergy are selected to serve as spiritual mentors for men who are discerning a call to the priesthood. The priests use the book To Save a Thousand Souls to guide their monthly meetings, though the exact amount of time spent varies in each case.
In addition, women’s religious communities have vocations directors and spiritual directors who spend many hours with young people to assist their discernment.
Parishes reported a wide range of hours spent on personal spiritual guidance (from 0 to 450) with an average of about 18 hours per parish. It was noted that guidance was also offered within catechetical classes, confirmation preparation, and scouting.
The Office of Vocations reported a variety of print resources for those who provide pastoral vocational guidance. Priests who serve as spiritual mentors for men discerning a call to the priesthood receive the book To Save a Thousand Souls. All priest and deacons received the book Lend Your Own Voice to Christ to help them share their personal vocation story in order to assist young men and women in their vocational discernment. In addition, there is a wealth of printed resources for those discerning, their parents, and those who are spiritually guiding the discerner.
Parish staff reported a variety of ways that they provide vocational guidance, including mentoring, spiritual counseling, encouraging and affirming young people, living as an example, and casual conversations. In addition, many parishes and Catholic schools invite clergy and religious to give talks to students or participate in programs such as the Serra Club “Vocations Cross” wherein families are invited to take the cross into their homes for a week of prayer for vocations.
1. What above affirms or challenges you?
2. Are there opportunities that we missed mentioning in this report?
3. What tools/formation opportunities might be helpful for you to as you spiritually guide young people?
Pray that young people open their minds and hearts to God's calling in their lives, and that when opportunities come around to assist them in this endeavor, they are open to those as well!
On June 19th, the Vatican announced the release of the "working document" or Instrumentum laboris for the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops taking place in October.
This is the table of contents:
The Part - Recognizing: The Church in listening to reality
Chapter I: Being young today
Chapter II: Experiences and languages
Chapter III: In the culture of waste
Chapter IV: Anthropological and cultural challenges
Chapter V: Listening to the young
Part II - Interpreting: faith and vocational discernment
Chapter I: The blessing of youth
Chapter II: The vocation to the light of faith
Chapter III: The dynamism of vocational discernment
Chapter IV: The art of accompanying
Part III - Choosing: paths of pastoral and missionary conversion
Chapter I: An integral perspective
Chapter II: Immersed in the fabric of everyday life
Chapter III: An Evangelized and Evangelizing Community
Chapter IV: Animation and organization of pastoral care
Prayer for the Synod
As we await the full English translation,
please continue to keep the process
and all young people in your prayers.
The next question posed in the Preparatory Document for the 2018 Synod on Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment was:
How do schools and universities or other educational institutions (civil or ecclesial) contribute to young people’s formation in vocational discernment?
Our summary of responses was:
The major topics of response from parents/families and staff of parishes and schools as to how educational institutions contribute to young people’s formation in vocational discernment centered on positive interactions of adults with young people. The most cited answers were:
Specific people were mentioned as important in addressing vocational discernment, including guest speakers (11), and school staff (7).
The importance of young people having contact with priests and religious was also highlighted (11).
Prayer (8) and retreats (8) were leading suggestions for faithful discernment, and the importance of God was mentioned by 6 people. Six people also brought up the issue of faith and morals being excluded from public schools.
Three people mentioned the importance of volunteering and serving in discerning a vocation.
The Office of Vocations provides professionally developed lesson plans and activities available for Catholic grade schools, junior high schools, high schools, CCD programs and youth ministry programs.
The curriculum for catechesis includes elements of discernment and this is realized though parish youth ministries, Kairos retreat, and young adult retreats in addition to Catholic School and Parish CCD programs.
The Office of Vocations encourages field trips for junior high and high school students to seminaries in order to experience the life of the seminary. In addition the Office of Vocations also offer vocation talks by priests, seminarians, and religious for school classroom sessions, CCD programs, and youth ministry meetings.
On the university level, campus ministry programs offer vocation talks, discernment groups, and mission trips that include discernment. At our Catholic University (Walsh), a house of discernment has been established to help young men discern while at college (more information is in the final section of this report).
1. Did anything above affirm or challenge you?
2. As an adult, looking back, how were schools and educational institutions instrumental in your own vocational discernment?
3. As a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, how have your observed schools and educational institutions supporting the vocational discernment of young people today?
4. What might you suggest to your local campus minister, department director, PTA/H&SA, or school administration to increase opportunities?
Take a moment to pray for those who journey with our young people during this middle school, high school and college years. May God give them the strength and courage to guide our young people along the paths to which God has called them!
Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment
During March 19-24, 2018, more than 300 young representatives from around the world (including 5 from the USA) convened in Rome at the inaugural Pre-Synodal Meeting of Young People.
Over the course of the week, the representatives took part in large-group and small language-group discussions, and responded to fifteen questions.
Their answers were synthesized into one final document, and will be incorporated into the Instrumentum Laboris (Working Document), the basis for the Synod Fathers’ deliberations in October.
Read this document posted at:
> What insights might you take from this document for your local community?
> Did anything surprise you in reading this document?
> Did you find anything in this document to affirm your current faith community efforts?
(Diocesan News Release)
All young people ages 16 – 29, (Catholic and non-Catholics alike)
have been invited to participate via social media with a gathering in Rome March 19 – 24, 2018.
315 young people (including 5 from the United States) will be travelling to Rome for a Pre-Synodal Meeting for an “opportunity for young people to produce a document, which expresses their view on the state of things, their ideas, their feelings and their recommendations, to be presented to the bishops and cardinals who will meet in October 2018 with Pope Francis to treat the topic: ”Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.’”
Young people from all around the world, however, can also participate by responding to 15 Hashtags using their social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.) which are listed online at:
Please help us to extend this invitation to young people ages 16 – 29.
For more information, please contact Cindee Case, Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministry, by phone: 330-744-8451 or email: email@example.com. Information has also been posted at: https://youngstownoyyam.weebly.com/synod-on-youth-2018.html
On March 1st, Tom East, Director of the Center for Ministry Development facilitated a one day training in Ravenna for about 25 parish and campus ministry leaders on Accompanying Youth on their Journey of Faith and Discernment.
After an opening prayer, we discussed the concept of accompaniment. We have to let go of preconceived frameworks for our ministries with young people, including our tendency to wait for the teens to come to our programs... we have to change our perspective.
When we read the Emmaus story (Luke 24: 13 - 35), notice that Christ LISTENED first to the travelers and allowed them to share their disappointments and hopes. He walked along side them and listened.
How can we better listen without judgement and walk along side the young people of our community? (We can also notice that Jesus was not waiting in a temple... he joined the travelers on the road...)
Mr. East reminded us that we are to reach out to all the young people of the parish community (and geography), not just those who show up at Mass and programs, and not even only those that have been Baptized.
One key to this ministry of accompaniment is to recognize that God is already part of each young people's life, since conception. We need to talk with them about the conversation God has been having in his/her life... they may need help recognizing it in themselves, and to see how God is at work in their daily lives, but we seldom "bring them to Christ" as Christ is and has been with them!
Tom shared many tools for accompanying, transforming our programs, and becoming a faith companion. It is important for parents, grandparents, godparents, catechists, teachers, youth ministers, coaches, group leaders, Confirmation sponsors, and even peers to take time to pray, connect, listen, empathize, care, and witness with young people.
The second session of the workshop was regarding ways to guide youth in discernment. One of the many resources shared on this topic was a "Simple Three-Minute Ignation Method" that can be used every day:
1. Spend the first minute thanking God the Father for all the blessings received that day.
2. Spend the second minute reviewing your failings and ask Jesus the Son for forgiveness.
3. In the final minute, ask the Holy Spirit for the strength and courage to live a better tomorrow.
One of the biggest differences we can make in the lives of young people is to foster a habit of daily prayer. Workshop participants were challenged to brainstorm ways to help youth pray. We also shared resources that can help. A great example that was shared was of a young man who set 4 alarms on his cell phone to remind him when the phone vibrated to pray.
Tom also shared ideas on breaking open the Synod Preparatory document, which can be found online at:
The key questions include:
> What should we do to transform our ministries using accompaniment as a model?
> What should we stop doing?
> What are some ways to encourage the faith community in walking with youth?
To learn more about the Center for Ministry Development,
visit their website at:
To read a blog post by Tom East on this topic, visit:
If you participated in the workshop, please comment below with any additional insights, ideas or strategies that you noted during the day!
The Synod Questionaire asks:
How are families and communities involved in the
vocational discernment of young people?
Parents/family and staff of parishes and schools overwhelmingly responded with the importance of communication in fostering vocation discernment of young people, including:
The importance of family and parents in the process was often cited (27).
Similarly, the importance of leading by example (14), positive role models (6),
and mentors (5) were listed as necessary support for youth.
Other responses included:
Only seven people mentioned discernment,
indicating that a better jobs need to be done to educate parents and families
about the importance of discerning in everyday life.
"Has your family discussed religious vocations to the priesthood or religious life?"
The Teens Said:
The young adults said:
Parents/family members said:
> What implications might these findings have for your ministry efforts?
> What resources are already provided to parents in the area of vocational
discernment and discussion?
> What encouragement does your parish provide to parents in this regard?
Cindee Case, MPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.