08 Building the Family of God

posted Jan 11, 2018, 7:51 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 11, 2018, 7:51 AM ]
Just-completed surveys of young Africans and young Americans have highlighted the challenges facing the Church's Youth Synod taking place in October this year, and the contrasting views and experiences that young people will bring to the synod, entitled "Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment".

In their research, the regional bishops' conferences of nine countries in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) took on board the urging of Pope Francis to be a "Listening Church" first and a "Teaching Church" second. Sessions were set up with groups of 10 to 15 young people, mainly high school and college students. The survey was initiated by Small Christian Communities (SCCs), led by Joseph Healey, an American Maryknoll missionary priest based in Nairobi who is a driving force behind the SCCs in eastern Africa. SCC teams operated under the overall coordination of the pastoral department of AMECEA in carrying out the survey.

The Adult SCCs had already responded to an accusation from the young that their meetings were "too dull", with "too much talk" by setting up communities specifically for young people, Youth Small Christian Communities (YSCCs). These were established in Dar es Salaam, Lilongwe, Lusaka and Nairobi. Most of the East African survey was carried out through consultation with the YSCCs. The sessions explored issues to do with young people's personal lives; what they felt about the Catholic Church; and their attitudes to society in general.

Fr Healey reported finding dedicated young people on "both ends of the spectrum": "On the right, young people are deeply spiritual (devoted to the Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, practices of piety). An increasing number of student groups are evangelical Catholics. On the left, young people are deeply involved in social justice, advocacy and service projects."

The survey found favourite discussion topics in the YSCC meetings that took place from 2013 to 2017 included: relationships with the opposite sex; sexuality; dating; fashion; popular music; video games; social networks; information technology; sport; and the use of leisure time.

Among spiritual concerns they listed: searching for one's human and Christian identity; self-discovery in a faith-sharing context; and vocational discernment (covering both religious vocations and vocations in the secular world). Career planning, job hunting and employment challenges were preoccupations, but justice and peace issues, good causes, and community service were also important.