BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Near the close of the U.S. bishops' Baltimore
meeting, the church leaders turned their attention to the concerns of
Catholic youths and young adults.
Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, who was one of
the delegates at the October Synod on Young People, the Faith and
Vocational Discernment at the Vatican, spoke to the bishops Nov. 14
about his experience but also what needs to be done now at the diocesan
and parish levels to continue the synod's momentum.
He called the nearly monthlong event a "moment of great grace" that the church truly needed.
And now, the challenge he said is for church leaders to sustain and
further develop what began in Rome and what they heard from synod
participants. For starters, dioceses could provide assemblies or synods
and on a parish level, priests and other leaders should identify mentors
for young people, bring youths into church leadership roles and help
them to embrace their vocation.
"They do not seek to be given token involvement. They want to
exercise genuine leadership in our church," the bishop said, urging that
this should happen at every level of church life.
He said a key theme from the synod was the ongoing need to protect
the vulnerable. "We must protect our young people and ensure that our
ministry for and with them are positive experiences of encounter between
church leaders and the young."
The synod also reflected a deep appreciation of the global nature of
our church with different challenges and priorities faced by young
people around the world and a recognition that many young people face
violence and suffering. Also, he said, while some youths and young
adults are active in their faith, "many are disaffiliating in growing
numbers." The bishop said the church should not only recognize the
challenges these young people are facing but also "raise our voices in
the public square on their behalf."
The previous night, Bishop Caggiano joined young adults who also had
been at the synod for a Theology on Tap presentation in Washington to
talk about the synod's impact on the church.
The bishop told the audience about how the synod gave him an even
deeper appreciation for Pope Francis, because of his humility and the
difficult role he has of keeping the church's global family together. He
said the experience helped him to realize "how beautifully diverse the
church is, how complicated the church is, and how much I sympathize and
need to keep praying for that man."
He told the group of young adults and the bishops about how the pope
would arrive 20 minutes early for each session to meet anyone who wanted
to meet him, posing for photos along the way.
He also told the Theology on Tap, sponsored by the Archdiocese of
Washington's Young Adult Ministry, that the church today can learn from
the early church, which grew from 5,000 Christians in about A.D. 70 to
about 23 million Christians in A.D. 312 A.D., during a time when
Christianity was a crime, punishable by death.
What helped these early Christians grow in numbers was their personal
pursuit of holiness and their supportive community, Bishop Caggiano
He said if the church as a whole were to commit to those ideals today, it would make a big difference.
"Not only will we see ourselves through the difficulties; not only
will we see the vision of the synod," he said, "but we will give rebirth
to the whole church."