Many people in society today continue to think faith and the Church are irrelevant; something people should stay away from. However, countless teens and young adults from across the Archdiocese of Toronto think otherwise.
This past January, Pope Francis called for a synod of bishops to take place in October 2018 at the Vatican on the topic of, "Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment."
For the past month or so, the Archdiocese of Toronto has been engaged in a "live listening process" – seeking input from youth and young adults from various regions of the archdiocese, with the intent to collect and amalgamate their views into a document that Synod participants can use them.
Sponsored by Faith Connections, together with the Archdiocese of Toronto's Office of Catholic Youth, multiple sessions have taken place already across the region. Cardinal Collins and all of the auxillary bishops have committed to taking part and listening to the many voices that are expected to take part.
Allison Belen had the chance to share her thoughts concerning the Church's outreach to young people at the most recent discussion group at St. Stainslaus Parish in Toronto. Allison commuted in from Scarborough, as a Youth Minister and newly-expecting Mom, to hear the Cardinal's personal comments.
"I had a desire to connect with fellow young adult Catholics to really hear and share our passion, concerns, and Concrete future hopes for the Church," Belen said.
"Pope Francis invited us to speak and assured we'd be heard— I felt it my Catholic duty to be actively involved in the process designed for dialogue and enrichment of the Church and collective Body of Christ."
All dioceses, including Toronto, have been asked to provide input, which will be used to help draft the Instrumentum Laboris, the working paper for the synod participants.
As Director of the Office of Catholic Youth, Fr. Frank Portelli has had a front row seat for all of the pre-synodal discussions so far. Portelli says the response has been favourable from the various Catholic campus ministries across the archdiocese. Many of them have sent in their responses and he's been encouraged by the entire Speak Up! process.
"I think it has confirmed the spirit of the age and the missionary spirit that the last few popes, since Pope Paul VI, have been encouraging the Church to adopt. We need to be making and equipping disciples," he said.
Portelli is tasked with writing the final report on behalf of the Archdiocese of Toronto.
"This is a new experience for me," he added. "I will be attempting to synthesize the feedback from all participants in the 16-29 age range, and then to have data attached so that the Vatican can read my report but rely on the feedback as well."
For Belen, her hopes for the Synod are clear and concise.
"With this coming Synod on Young People and Vocations, my hope is that the Pope and Bishops will listen to the Young people's suggestions with an open, earnest and prayerful heart."
Still want to jump in on all of the action? Join Faith Connections and the Office of Catholic Youth on October 11 and November 1 for their last two sessions in this unique series. That way, you can give your take on the place of faith and the Church in modern society.