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Jonathan LewisNovember 08, 2018
Pope Francis arrives for a gathering with young people and members of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican Oct. 6. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

For a month I sat perched high up in the nosebleed seats of the synod hall reserved for the auditors, or lay participants, of the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment. It came with a view of Pope Francis and the hundreds of bishops, priests and fellow lay people participating in the synod. Each day we sat for hours listening to four-minute interventions, one from each person in the hall.

While the synod team incorporated many of these ideas into the final document, I wanted to share some of the quotes that I scribbled down in my notebook. The quotes are shared anonymously as we have been asked to respect the privacy of the synod, which Pope Francis described as the “protected space where the Holy Spirit acts.”

Listening and Discernment

1. We are here to demonstrate that young people engaged in the church are right and that the church is worthwhile.
2. We need practical efforts, not fruitless documents.
3. If I disagree with someone, I have to listen more carefully.
4. Discernment is not a slogan or technique for administration, it is an attitude and act of faith.
5. Young people want to see the church modeling discernment before applying it to their life.

If I disagree with someone, I have to listen more carefully.

6. We must move from a pastoral care for young people to a pastoral care with young people.
7. Greater synodal participation in the church is not the democratization of the church.
8. Listening doesn’t endanger doctrine; it brings it closer and makes it easier to understand.
9. We need a revolution of tenderness that educates the heart.

Bishops and the Church

10. We are afraid of seeing our own wounds.
11. Our institutions need the prophetic voice of young people.
12. We need institutional conversion since most parishes are not adapted for young people.
13. Young people have grown tired of bureaucracy in the church and have gone elsewhere where they have access.
14. Church leaders are called to dive into the digital world; the way to their hearts is through their cell phone.
15. Bishops need to spend time with young people. Priests will follow the examples that their bishops set.
16. Is our money spent on our buildings or our people?
17. The church is a mother and will be helped by including more mothers and spiritual mothers in her work.

Do we act like a field hospital or a stingy insurance company?

18. To help young people on a journey we have to go on a journey ourselves: to be simple, poor, free from power and wealth, transparent and open.
19. We must reject everything duplicitous in our church to draw people through authenticity and attraction.
20. We cannot hide teachings to attract young people to the church but propose the Christian ideal with courage and consistency.
21. Do we act like a field hospital or a stingy insurance company?
22. Mary is our model for listening, asking questions and overcoming clericalism.
23. We need to limit the administrative burdens on priests so they can focus on being with people.
24. The conversion of the hearts of pastors is required in the outreach to young people.

Young People

25. Young people want to encounter a God that doesn’t promise a sterile life.
26. Dear young people: We are sorry for how we have failed you and for when we have sold you short and not called you to holiness. Never give up on Christ because of our failures.
27. Young people are asking for an intelligent and culturally sensitive articulation of faith.
28. Young people want to be spoken to in their own language.
29. Young people aren’t here for the church; they are the church—the most beautiful and dynamic part of the church.

Young people aren’t here for the church; they are the church—the most beautiful and dynamic part of the church.

30. Young people growing up today are like flowers blooming in a minefield.
31. We cannot take decisions away from young people but honor their freedom and trust in them.
32. We need a preferential option for the poor and the young.
33. Young people are not content with half measures but are looking for powerful gestures.
34. We cannot try to tame young people; passion is the special quality of youth.
35. Young people are the first to suffer the consequences of social change and secularization.
36. Young people seek experiences of mysticism in ordinary life but have difficulty finding it in church.
37. Young people are attracted to excellence in various areas of life and the church should model excellence.
38. How can we help young people experience the joy of being part of this family?
39. Young people are looking for a Mother Church—not a cold structure fighting for institutional life.

Family and Intergenerational Community

40. A crisis of fatherhood has led to a crisis of faith.
41. The church must better support young couples in passing on faith to their children.
42. Not everything is individual; growth and change happen in a community.
43. Too often, parents are not available or equipped to form their children.
44. We need an alliance between generations.

The young church is not in opposition to the older church; it is a leaven within it.

45. Young people need to suppress the intention not to listen or [the belief] that all things begin at zero.
46. “If there are no elderly people in your home, get one” (Egyptian proverb).
47. The young church is not in opposition to the older church; it is a leaven within it.
48. Too many elders have abdicated their responsibility to pass on the faith.
49. Older Catholics need to remember that they were the young people of yesterday.
50. We need platforms for young people and elders to come together and dialogue.


51. Accompaniment includes both comfort and challenge.
52. Clergy cannot delegate away the role of accompaniment to younger priests or “personality priests.”
53. Mentors are not supposed to make young people in their ownimage, but in Jesus’ image.
54. Our pastoral priority should be the formation of people who will do the accompaniment of young people.
55. When young people don’t find mentors, they flee to other parishes or to the world who uses [their gifts].
56. God takes us as we are, but he doesn’t leave us there.

God takes us as we are, but he doesn’t leave us there.

57. Young people leave the church when they don’t find meaning and mentorship there.
58. Our best pastoral ability is our availability.
59. We need a paradigm shift from mass production topersonal accompaniment, one at a time.
60. We have written catechisms but failed to form catechists who offer an attractive proclamation of the Gospel.
61. Our challenge is that adults do not have enough time for young people. There are not enough well-prepared companions.

Jesus and the Holy Spirit

62. We need to increase the opportunities for young people to contemplate the face of Christ in their life.
63. Christ taught as a true friend with an authority that attracted them.
64. Have we stagnated the Holy Spirit with religious maintenance? We need a new Gospel fire.
65. Young people want to see the face of Christ today; we have to show Jesus to them.
66. Too often our hearts are too small. We must allow Christ to make our hearts larger.

Christ didn’t think about self-preservation; neither should we.

67. Young people are not fearful. They are waiting to be called to follow Jesus Christ to the cross.
68. We need to preach the kerygma; they need to know Jesus well enough to ask him a question.
69. Christ asks us to be significant interlocutors with young people.
70. Discernment without the Holy Spirit is only a psychological technique.
71. Why are young people not enamored by the Christ we propose to them?
72. Christ didn’t think about self-preservation; neither should we.


73. Adults have not shown young people the way of holiness. To call young people to be saints means we need to be saints ourselves.
74. We should drink regularly from the Word of God.
75. Young people want consistency between orthodoxy and orthopraxis.
76. Humility is the stone on which vocation grows.
77. Chastity and sexuality are a gift, not an obstacle to happiness.

Young Adult Leadership

78. Vocation is a service, not a privilege or power.
79. Young people need formation to be protagonists in a new Areopagus.
80. Young people want a church that helps them build a better society.
81. Young people are the best evangelists of young people.

Young people are the best evangelists of young people.

82. Young people are not secondary members of the church or recipients only—they are protagonists.
83. We must help young people personalize their project of Christian life.
84. We need youth leadership teams at the national, diocesan and parish level.

A Church that Goes Out

85. Our task is to rediscover a church that goes out, not to remake a church for young people to come to.
86. We need a church that is prepared to be uncomfortable in going out.
87. We need an evangelical hospitality for migrants.

88. An “outgoing church” starts with ourselves as “outgoing bishops.”
89. When young people see church leaders go out, they will be emboldened and will join us.
90. The church cannot reproduce the inequalities of society.
91. The church is called to be prophetic in a world of globalization.
92. Christ spent time with the people religious leaders considered excluded from salvation.
93. A ship in the port is safe but doesn’t go anywhere.
94. This synodal spirit of walking together, side by side, should continue after these 30 days.
95. Synod is not a parliament; it is a protected space where the Holy Spirit acts.
96. We must unlock the power of beauty that captures the heart.


97. Mission experiences are an apprenticeship in action and discernment, a laboratory in mysticism and pastoral care.
98. Young people cannot be considered a hunting ground for vocations.
99. Vocational discernment is a process that begins in the family and grows out into other communities.
100. Every vocation has an ascetic component—choosing something is always saying no to something else.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of the Synod on Young People.]

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Dr.Cajetan Coelho
5 years 5 months ago

Thought-provoking and action-prompting quotes.

Michael Barberi
5 years 5 months ago

Let's see what all this means in terms of concrete changes.

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