Sister Barbara Jean Mihalchick speaks at Serra club
Sister Barbara Jean Mihalchick, OSBM, discussed October’s Synod on Youth, the Faith and Vocational Discernment in Rome and shared compelling coverage found on “Crux,” a new Catholic website, at the Byzantine Catholic Serra Club’s Oct. 17 meeting. She began by saying preparation for this Synod came with an official seal of approval. The 300 young people who met in Rome — including Byzantine Catholic Christopher Russo — joined by some 15,000 youth who took part in Facebook groups organized as part of the pre-synod process, were chosen by their bishops’ conferences and invited by the Vatican to contribute their ideas.
In Rome from Oct. 3 to 28, the Synod of 267 bishops and cardinals from around the world discussed the topic of faith, young people, and vocational discernment. Some 34 young people were called to attend the gathering, and each had the opportunity to give a brief, four-minute reflection along with the prelates who participated.
As head of our sui juris Church in America, Bishop William Skurla presented a statement. He gathered ideas from a questionnaire the Archeparchy had posted on the web for all young people in our Metropolia. Some would call the timing of the Synod unfortunate in that it followed on the heels of the clergy sexual abuse scandal in Pennsylvania. However, that event served to focus on the need to seek forgiveness for the Church’s failures. This further served to create an openness to meet the youth where they are rather than criticize them.
The openness evoked this response from the youth: “We want to say, especially to the hierarchy of the Church, that they should be a transparent, welcoming, honest, inviting, communicative, accessible, joyful and interactive community.” The young people sought to encourage the Church to deepen its understanding of the role of women and to empower both lay and consecrated women in “the spirit of the Church’s love for Mary, the mother of Jesus.”
Also, the youth observed a lack of leading female role models within the Church. Young women desire to contribute intellectually and professionally to the Church, saying: “If it is difficult for young people to feel a sense of belonging and leadership in the Church, it is much more so for young women… to that end, it would be helpful for young people if the Church not only clearly stated the role of women, but also helped young people to explore and understand it more clearly.”
Speaking for the prelates, U.S. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo acknowledged the challenge of pulling together the responses and needs of the diverse group. The youth face challenges, too, of economics, anxiety and drug and alcohol abuse. He pointed out that the survey responses show that church leaders have work to do to walk with young people and address challenges they face, but he also said there has been some positive growth in young people’s faith, especially for those in high school and college.
Pope Francis warned the youth against being seduced by “ideological colonization” and invited young people to repeat: “I have no price, I am free…like this freedom that Jesus gives.” He was especially moved in front of the photo of a young man and his grandfather, the strongest message of the evening the Synod Fathers spent with 7,000 youth, he said, recommending that youth cultivate the bonds with older
ones, those who are their
Sister Barbara Jean asked: “What should the Synod mean to Serrans?” Her answer: “Young people need an education of their hearts to recognize what is true, good and beautiful, and what will lead them to a full life, without being fooled by false idols. “We as adults need to have the loving, trusting and reassuring attitude and approach
that parents have when their young toddler learns to walk and falls. Young people will fall, and when they make mistakes, they need loving, caring and listening adults, willing to dialogue, which can alleviate fears. As older adult Catholics, we can influence young people with our love, good works and prayers, urging them to not be
afraid because Jesus will always be with them, too.”
A sister representative at the Synod said: “I beg you not to make decisions for young people; don’t mold them according to your models and don’t do everything for them. Believe in young people and help them be who God wants them to be.” She urged adults to be trusted guides interpreting the things young people are passionate about in the light of faith. They want help knowing “if a certain something is appropriate for us or not” as a Catholic.
Sister Barbara Jean challenged Serrans and others to encounter youth where they are, to be open to dialogue with them and to draw them to Faith — by example! In all of this our goal is to assist in finding God’s path for their lives.