VATICAN – The Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith and Discernment opened on Wednesday in the Vatican. One of the young people invited to attend and to address the Synod talks about his hopes, expectations, and even about the issues he intends to raise.
We’ve heard the presentation and listened to the General Secretary explain its aims, we know that the over 300 Synod Fathers gathered in the Vatican Synod Hall will produce a final document, and that there are 34 young people who will have the precious opportunity to address the Synod on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment” and even have an impact on its outcome. But who are they? What are their expectations for the next three busy weeks? What does it feel like for them to have been chosen to represent their peers and raise new issues at such a crucial event for the life of the Church?
I had a word with 25-year-old Julian Paparella from London Diocese in Ontario, Canada. He followed a degree in biology with a Masters in Theology at the Institut Catholique de Paris and is currently working as Campus Minister at McGill University in Montreal helping accompany students in their faith.
Julian told me of his great surprise upon receiving the invitation from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Canada to participate in the Synod.
Julian’s involvement with the Canadian Catholic “Salt & Light” TV where he has interned and his experience at the Catholic Institute in Paris were probably the reason, he said, his name came to the fore when the bishops were asked to select a candidate.
“I was surprised and I hope I’ll continue to be surprised” he said as he begins this experience, “a great gift” during which he has been asked to serve the Universal Church.
A voice for young people
“I’m just hopeful that I will be able to serve in this capacity, as a voice for young people, trying to make the Synod Fathers, the Holy Father, more sensitive to the current realities and needs of young people”.
Julian stressed that he will not be presenting his own views and opinions, but “the questions and the needs of young people, their concerns, their questions of faith, their lived reality so that the Church can better accompany young people of today”.
A perennial need to re-adjust
Julian spoke of what he sees as a constant need for the Church to continue to re-engage with young people and really be in their midst pointing out that those needs and concerns will constantly evolve.
“With every new generation there will be a need to re-evaluate, re-understand what young people are living”, how can the Church be better present to walk with them towards Jesus, he said.
He pointed out that there certainly is a need right now in the Church for re-adjustment and expressed his appreciation for the fact that the Pope sees that and has responded with something as significant as a Synod of Bishops but, he said “I don’t think that need will ever go away”.
Jesus Christ will never be irrelevant
Reiterating his deep belief that the Gospel will never be irrelevant for young people, Julian recalled the words of Saint Pope John Paul II when he said “Jesus Christ is the answer to the question posed by every human heart”.
We all thirst for Jesus Christ, he said, and “whether or not they know it, all young people are thirsting for his Love.” And so, he continued, the question is: “how does the Church become an instrument and a vehicle by which young people are able to encounter this love of God”.
The only questions of possible irrelevance, Julian said, regard the ways and the means with which the Church is reaching or not reaching young people. – Linda Bordoni, Vatican News, 03 Oct 2018