There is a lot of internet buzz recently. It is regarding the final four words of the Netflix return of the Gilmore Girls. (and, yes, I watched… it’s what dads of 25-year-old youngest daughters do.) I will to engage in any spoiler alerts here. Those final four words spoken allude to many more words yet to be spoken. There is much more story and content to be shared.
When my favorite TV series, The West Wing, concluded, it ended surprisingly. It was a show renown for quick, snappy dialogue. Yet, it finished with just a one-word response to the question, “What are you thinking about? That answer: “Tomorrow.” Again, there are many more words yet to be spoken, much more story and content to be shared.
Yet, I worry that when we speak of youth ministry, we assume a reverence that we have achieved the final word. There is nothing more to be said. If it needs to be said again, cue up the reruns because we imagine that have already gotten it right. We are done. <Mic drop!>
And yet, there are many more words yet to be spoken, much more story and content to be shared. And to start the continued conversation, listen. Hear, if you will, the recent statements coming from within Church gatherings.
The new Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, recently introduced himself to the US bishops in their annual meeting here in Baltimore in November. He had many more words to be spoken regarding the Church and her young people.
The Holy Father now directs our attention to young people. The theme for the next Synod was just announced: Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment. They too must know God’s mercy. Two key words emanating from the exhortation are ‘accompaniment’ and ‘discernment’. Young people need to be accompanied in discerning their path in life, but this accompaniment presupposes welcoming them to better integrate them into the life of the Church. It is this that I wish to explore more deeply with you…
But we, the Church, have to seek (young people) out to provide the occasion, the environment, and the moment that allows for this encounter. Do young people have a sense of being sought out, welcomed and appreciated enough that they can have this encounter with Jesus Christ through the Church? We know that youth are critical to the life of the Church, and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to transmit the faith to young people in a changing environment and in a Church in which very often they do not have a profound sense of belonging, even if they have the desire to belong. Our youth find themselves at the “peripheries” of both the Church and society. We must go out to them.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre went on to identify his take on some of the characteristics of young people at this moment in history which motivate all call to share the joy of the Gospel.
- To begin, young people generally tend to place everything in the present moment.
- Furthermore, young people want to affirm their own person, while resisting uniformity of education and social pressures.
- Young people want to separate themselves from the control of parents as they look to the future.
- Another characteristic of young people today is prolonged adolescence
You can read all of Archbishop Pierre’s address to the US bishops here.
Just days later Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia and Bishop Caggiano of Bridgeport provided a statement (on behalf of their respective USCCB committees) regarding youth and World Youth Day celebrations. In it, they expressed their hope that our brother bishops, and all leaders of the Church, will use this journey over the next three years as an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to young people and our ministries with them. (emphasis mine)
And, just days later from that, on the twentieth anniversary of Sons and Daughters of the Light, the United States bishops’ pastoral plan for ministry with young adults, Catholic leaders were invited to submit short white papers on how we might sharpen the vision for young adult ministry. These “white papers” are meant to serve as a “snapshot’ of the conversation taking place regarding young adult ministry.
So, for “Tomorrow,” we recognize that we have not achieved the final word. There are many more words yet to be spoken, much more story and content to be shared. Here is what I am hoping shows up in the conversation
- In addressing the somewhere youth and commitment needed for ordination and/or religious life, I hope that the Synod address the creamy Oreo goodness of missionary discipleship and the richness of vocational possibilities in which one might serve their family, community, and church as a disciple of Jesus.
- In youth and young adult ministry, we need to reconfigure that our working in support of formation of disciples is not so much in group efforts (as it almost exclusively seems in the present) and is found in individual relationships and mentorships
- Of course, that being said, there are group effort of discipleship that we have yet to fully maximize. They are found within the family and in the parish community. I will continue to insist the young people serve asthe coal mine pigeons marking the health of our efforts in the New Evangelization. There has been much efforts on revitalizing the Church’s ministry families and parish communities but, in these efforts, is young people’s discipleship even much of an afterthought?
Tomorrow starts today.