It has been nearly a month since the beginning of the presynod gathering on “Young people, the faith and vocational discernment,” in Rome, and other than the palms from the Mass in St. Peter’s Square still sitting on my dining room table and the magnet of a Swiss Guardsman stuck to my fridge, the physical remnants of that remarkable trip have been put away.
My suitcase is unpacked, my (mostly) normal day-to-day schedule has resumed, and save for the occasional tweet about #synod2018, it seems that the presynod gathering of young people, the first of its kind, has largely faded from view.
But for me, the presynod has really just begun, because in the weeks since returning, I’ve been able to more fully reflect on what happened during the gathering and the value I believe it will have for the church as a whole.
As one of the delegates representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, going to Rome was easily one of the greatest honors of my personal and professional life as it allowed me the chance to bring my experiences, expertise and insights to the table.
Upon arriving in Rome, I was absolutely certain I knew what I was in for: a chance to talk, write and craft a message that would be good for the church. I thought I was going for the U.S. — to do a job and complete a task, and serve the American church well.
And we did that: We spent a lot of time in conversation, a lot of time writing, even more time reading and revising, and then proudly presented an 11-page summary of what was discussed to the bishops. But the presynod gathering of young people amounted to more — a chance for the church to do something nearly unheard of, setting a precedent moving forward.
Young people are the topic of the synod in October, but rather than just talk at young people, Pope Francis wanted to talk with young people. The supreme pontiff — the vicar of Christ — wanted to engage in dialogue with the very people he is hoping to reach, evangelize and pastor. He wanted to hear from us, learn about our struggles, listen to our hopes and dreams, pay attention to our concerns and give us a chance to honestly share our thoughts.
To some, this seemed absurd. Critics said it was unthinkable that young people would dare speak on their own behalf. But I know that if this synod in October is to be truly fruitful and effective, then the presynod gathering was an important step in the process. It has provided new insights, forced big questions to be asked and challenged the leaders of the church to think beyond the boxes they sometimes limit themselves to.
But on another level, the presynod gathering did something for me, just as much as I did for it.
Spending time with people from around the world, from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and of different opinions, gave me insight not just into the state of young people globally, but also helped me recognize the universality of our faith.
We became a community — we shared meals, spent time in conversation, learned about one another’s lives, prayed together and became friends. As we dialogued and learned from one another, it dawned on me that the experience of the presynod gathering was, in a very real way, the experience of the life of the church.
Perhaps Pope Francis knew this when he called for this gathering to happen, that bringing so many young people forth, giving them time to talk and tasking them with crafting a document to present to the bishops would, in the end, not only benefit the church, but also benefit each one of us.
The presynod helped many of us see firsthand how sharing and living the faith happens best: in community, in honest, authentic dialogue, growing together as we journey with and to Jesus Christ.
Join the conversation. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prejean-McGrady, wife, mother and youth minister, was one of three young adult delegates selected by the U.S. bishops to attend a presynod gathering in Rome in March. She is a guest columnist for the Catholic News Service column “In Light of Faith.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
PREVIOUS: A little boy meets a pastor, then the trolls come out
NEXT: What preceded the Big Bang? It isn’t a meaningless question
Share this story