A new video series on the upcoming synod reveals how the Church can reach out to young people.
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What are young people looking for when they go to church? What attracts or repels them? These are among the questions that bishops will seek to answer at the synod in October, dedicated to the following theme: Young people, the faith, and vocational discernment.
An ongoing series of interviews with young people around the world reveals that they are seeking several specific things from the Church. Above all, young people desire a Church that is honest and genuine—that is “close to people’s real needs,” in the words of one young woman.
“If the things that are preached to us aren’t backed up by action, all the words lose their force, they lose their value, they remain empty,” one woman said.
One form of such authenticity is a welcoming community. Indeed, the desire for community came up again and again. One woman asked that the Church learn to “embrace more people.” A young man added, “What I think is most urgent for the Catholic Church, without a doubt, is that it be welcoming.”
Young people made clear that community is about attitudes and not just about trendy buzzwords or social events. “What pushes me away” from the Church, one woman said frankly, “is to see attitudes of closed-mindedness.”
Encouraging such an atmosphere of friendship and fellowship may well make the difference between a person returning to the Church as opposed to leaving it forever. One young man who had drifted away from the Church remembered with fondness the Catholic community where he had found friendship, and said he eventually hopes to get closer to the Church again.
Besides community, the other form of authenticity that young people mentioned seeking is social justice. Several young people wished that the Church would offer a strong voice on current events. “I think they should speak up more about hunger, and terrorism, and poverty,” one woman said.
Closely related is the desire for a Church that is transparent and truly safe for every member. Church should be “a place of security,” one woman said, “a place that people don’t have to fear.”
Like the proverbial sheep, young people are looking for a shepherd, a strong voice to guide them through what is often a tumultuous phase of life. They seek not just any shepherd but holy leaders who live with prayer and action.
What young people want most of all, what truly attracts them to the Church, is simply a welcoming community led by holy and honest leaders.
“Truly bear witness to what life is about, to the word of God,” one young man asked of Catholic leaders. A young woman put it simply, asking for “Deeds, not words!”