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Synod 2018 on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment

World Youth Day pilgrims hold candles during a July 30 prayer vigil with Pope Francis at the Field of Mercy in Krakow, Poland. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Pope Francis Releases World Youth Day Message, Mentions Synod

On February 22, 2018, Pope Francis released his message for the 2018 "World Youth Day" celebration (which is internationally celebrated on Palm Sunday, this year March 25). The theme of this year, which is aimed at all youth and young adults, is "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God" (Lk 1:30) .

The document is available in various languages on the Vatican website at

In the message, he references the Synod and the preparation for World Youth Day.  This is the second of three year cycle of WYD themes focused around discernment, vocation, and the Blessed Mother (Lk 1:49, Lk 1:30, Lk. 1:38). Last year, the Holy Father asked young people to reflect on their past and how "the Almighty has done great things" for them. This year, the Holy Father is encouraging young people to be aware of the present moment – not to be frightened by it or by their own self-doubts, but to take courage and be open to accepting the Lord's invitation to engage and to lead in church and in society. 


Three young adult delegates were discerned by the USCCB to represent the United States of America at the March 2018 Pre-Synod Gathering in Rome. The United States will participate in a special Pre-Synod Gathering in March 2018 in Rome, a milestone on the way to the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.

The young adults are:  

Br. Javier Hansen, FSC, originally from northern California, is a Brother of the Christian Schools in the Lasallian District of San Francisco-New Orleans, currently serving as a religion teacher at Cathedral High School-El Paso, Texas.

Nick López, originally from San Antonio, currently serves as the director of campus ministry for the University of Dallas. He is also a guest columnist for the Catholic News Service column, In Light of Faith, focused on millennials.

Katie Prejean McGrady, of the Diocese of Lake Charles in Louisiana, is a wife, new mother, youth minister, and a popular speaker who has been working with many youth and young adult communities across the country.

New Resources





SPECIAL SYNOD WEBSITE: The Vatican recently launched a website and survey for youth and young adults related to the XV Ordinary Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment. The survey on the website is aimed at those around the ages of 16 to 29. The responses go directly and confidentially to the Vatican Synod Office.

Pope Francis has dedicated the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to be focused on the theme of "Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment." It will be held in Rome in October 2018. Pope Francis noted: "The theme, an expression of the pastoral care of the Church for the young, is consistent with the results of the recent Synod assemblies on the family and with the content of the post-Synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Its aim is to accompany the young on their existential journey to maturity so that, through a process of discernment, they discover their plan for life and realize it with joy, opening up to the encounter with God and with human beings, and actively participating in the edification of the Church and of society."

The text of the "Synod Preparatory Document", including the questionnaire for pastoral leaders, can be found online.

USCCB Book Cover: Young People Vocational Discernment    Order Your Preparatory Document Today!

Table of Contents

Basic Information about the Synod of Bishops

What is the Synod of Bishops? 

The Synod of Bishops is a permanent institution of the Catholic Church. It was established by Pope Paul VI in 1965, shortly after the close of the Second Vatican Council, to continue the spirit of collegiality and communion that was present at the Council. The Synod is an assembly of bishops from around the world who assist the Holy Father by providing counsel on important questions facing the Church in a manner that preserves the Church's teaching and strengthens her internal discipline. (see the Vatican website and Code of Canon Law, canon 342) 

When does the Synod of Bishops meet? 

The Synod of Bishops meets at the request of the Holy Father, when he considers it necessary or opportune to consult with the world's bishops. 

What are the meetings of the Synod of Bishops called? 

The Synod of Bishops can meet in a General Assembly (or Session) on topics that pertain to the entire Church; these kinds of sessions can be either Ordinary or Extraordinary. The Synod of Bishops can also meet in a Special Assembly (or Session) on topics that pertain to a limited geographical area. For example, Special Assemblies have been held in recent years on topics concerning the Middle East and Africa. 

What is an Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops? 

A General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is called "Ordinary" if its topic is "for the good of the universal Church" and seems to require the "learning, prudence and counsel" of all the world's bishops (Ordo Synodi Episcoporum, 4) 

What is an Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops? 

A General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is called "Extraordinary" when it is convened to deal with matters "which require a speedy solution" (Code of Canon Law, cannon 346 §2) and which demand "immediate attention for the good of the entire Church" (OSE, 4). 

Who are the heads of the Synod of Bishops? 

The President of the Synod is the current Holy Father, Pope Francis. The Synod also has a General Secretary, who is currently Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri. (See the Vatican website for a list of past Presidents and General Secretaries.) 

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15th Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops on Young People

Pope Francis meeting with young people at the John Paul II Diocesan Youth Center in Sarajevo during his June 2015 visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina.  CNS Photo/Paul HaringWhat is the theme of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops? 

"Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment" 

What are the dates of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops? 

October 2018

Where will the 15th Ordinary Synod take place? 

Vatican City

What is the purpose of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops? 

The Preparatory Document describes the purpose of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly as an opportunity for the Church "to examine herself on how she can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to the fullness of life and love, and to ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective way to announce the Good News today."  

What documents were released in advance of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops? 

January 2017: The Synod Preparatory Document looks at the current global situation, the lives of young people in the modern world, and the process of walking with young people as they discern their personal "vocation of love." The document ends with a questionnaire about young people and vocational discernment inviting responses that will be incorporated into a working document for the October 2018 synod.

"Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls"

Pope Francis also released his Letter to Young People in which he entrusted the Preparatory Document to young people as a "compass on this synodal journey". Pope Francis tells young people "do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit" and encourages them to "undertake a journey of discernment to discover God's plan" for their lives. Pope Francis' letter encourages young people to let their voices be heard throughout the synodal journey and he ends by entrusting them to the Blessed Mother that she might guide them in responding "Here I am" to God's call. 

April 2017: During Palm Sunday weekend, Pope Francis addressed the global community of youth and young adults, and the ministry leaders accompanying them in Rome, connecting the journey of the Synod with the preparations for World Youth Day. He held a special prayer service dedicated to the Blessed Mother at which he spoke to the leaders and young people gathered in Rome. On Palm Sunday, he entrusted the WYD Cross to the young people of Panama.

June 2017: The Vatican Synod Office launched a special website and survey aimed directly at youth and young adults. The survey will help the Synod Office better understand the realities of young people today and their pathways to vocation and the Catholic faith. 

National Dialogue 

The upcoming Synod offers the Church a time to grow in understanding of youth and young adults.The National Dialogue is an initiative dedicated to seeing an energized and unified Church committed to forming and engaging youth and young adults as missionary disciples. Through this three year process, the National Dialogue hopes to equip the Church with adequate ways to respond to the results of the Synod in order to create a more united community. For more information, visit the official website here

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Other Questions

Who are the "young people" of the Church? 

Although the United States defines "youth" as ages 12-18 and "young adult" as ages 18-39, the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will focus on ages 16-29, as defined in the Preparatory Document. The Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment will be aimed at this particular age group and their pastoral needs. 

What does "vocation" mean in the context of this Synod?

The Synod Preparatory Document speaks of the "vocation to love," which "takes concrete form in everyday life through a series of choices, which find expression in the states of life (marriage, ordained ministry, consecrated life, etc.), professions, forms of social and civil commitment, lifestyle, the management of time and money, etc." In other words, the concept of "vocation" in this context is very broad.  So when speaking of the states of life and the vocational journey of young people towards them, the U.S. bishops understand "vocation" to mean the pathway to marriage, ordained ministry, and consecrated life.

Pope Francis walks with World Youth Day pilgrims as he arrives for a July 30 prayer vigil at the Field of Mercy in Krakow, Poland. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

More Information on Young People

Youth Ministry: Youth are defined as young people ages 12 to 18 in junior high school or high school. Youth Ministry is the Church's pastoral action with this age group in parishes, grade schools and high schools, dioceses, movements, apostolates, and other ministry contexts.

Young Adult Ministry: Young adults are defined as young people ages 19 to 39 who are single or married, divorced or widowed, and in college, working, unemployed, incarcerated, or in the military. Young Adult Ministry is the Church's pastoral action with these age groups in parishes, college and university campuses, dioceses, movements, apostolates, and other ministry contexts.

Pastoral Juvenil: In Hispanic-Latino cultures, "jovenes" are those young people ages approximately 16 to 30 (or until marriage), and Pastoral Juvenil Hispana is the Church's pastoral action with these young men and women in parishes, schools, dioceses, movements, apostolates, and other ministry contexts. 


More Information on Vocations

PriesthoodOrdained Ministry

More information on the priesthood
More information on the diaconate

Consecrated LifeConsecrated Life

More information on consecrated life

Married LifeMarriage

More information on married life




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WYD 2016 - Pope Francis is pictured on a screen en route to a welcoming ceremony

If you have additional questions about the Synod on "Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment," please contact the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth at or call 202-541-3040.  You can also find out more about the Synod process (with videos and photos from around the world) at the Vatican's special 2018 Synod webpage.

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