Watch Cardinal DiNardo's presentation on the 2018 Synod during the November 2017 USCCB General Assembly in Baltimore, MD or read his remarks.
Christus Vivit is an apostolic exhortation that responded to a multi-year global synodal process (2016-2019) that focused exclusively on the topic of "young people, the faith, and vocational discernment."
Even though the message is timeless, it is helpful to have some context to the origins and journey that led up to Christus Vivit. This page will help to unpack that context.
Pope Francis 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." The synodal process began in 2016 with the announcement of the Synod, continued throughout 2017 and much of 2018 as the Church held consultations, listening, and dialogue on and with young people.
The Synod of Bishops - the culminative event in the process - was held in Rome from October 3 to 28, 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 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) However, in recent years, the Synod has transformed into a global dialogue on particular issues of pastoral concern such as evangelization, Scripture, family life, young people, and synodality itself.
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 and the People of God.
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). Recent examples include evangelization, the Bible, and marriage and family.
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). One recent example was the Synod on the Amazon, focusing on the geographical regions around the Amazon River in South America.
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 Mario Grech; during the 2016-2019 XV Synod on young people, the General Secretary was Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri (See the Vatican website for a list of past Presidents and General Secretaries.)
What was the theme of the 15th (XV) Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops?
"Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment"
What were the dates of the XV Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops?
October 3-28, 2018, though the process leading up to and following it took place from Oct 2016 to June 2019
Where did the XV Ordinary Synod take place?
What is the purpose of the XV 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."
Who attended this Synod?
Synods are attended by the Holy Father and select bishops from around the world, accompanied by experts and auditors. In 2018, the bishops met to discuss youth and young adults in light of their current realities and the journey of vocational discernment. There were also young adults (18-30s) present as auditors during the October 2018 Synod, but they did not have voting rights. The only voting members of the XV Synod were the bishop representatives. The delegates from the United States, sent by the USCCB, were:
- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, then-President of the USCCB
- Archbishop José H. Gomez, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, then-Vice President of the USCCB
- Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archdiocese of Philadelphia, then-Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth
- Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, Diocese of Bridgeport, then-member of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth
- Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis
- NOTE: Cardinal Joseph Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archdiocese of Newark, then-Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, was also appointed by the USCCB but could not attend the Synod in Oct 2018.
In addition, other U.S. bishops attended the Synod in various capacities and by additional invitations. These include Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Kevin Farrell of the Vatican Dicastery of Laity, Family and Life, Bishop A. Elias Zaidan of the Marionite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon in Los Angeles, and Archbishop William Skurla of the Rutherian Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh. Several staff from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) were also present in Rome to assist the U.S. bishop delegates.
Young adult auditors from the U.S. included Mr. Jonathan Lewis of Washington DC, Mrs. Yadira Vieyra of Chicago, and Sr. Briana Santiago of San Antonio and the Apostles of the Interior Life.
What were the topics of discussion?
There were many topics discussed at the Synod, that emerged from the three sections of the Synod "working document," known as the Instrumentum Laboris. The gathering was conducted in the form of a conversation that included short interventions by bishop delegates and small group conversations. Each week in October 2018, one of the three sections was covered (recognizing, interpreting, and choosing). The typical pattern each week began with the large group interventions in the main Synod hall, followed by small groups to further unpack what was heard, followed by reporting on the small group conclusions in the main hall.
What was the Pre-Synod Gathering? Who attended it?
Young adult delegates, ages 18 to 30s, were discerned by their respective episcopal conferences, movements, and international organizations to represent their peers at a March 2018 Pre-Synod Meeting in Rome, convened by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, in preparation for the October 2018 Synod of Bishops.
The young adults discerned to the Pre-Synod by the USCCB were:
Br. Javier Hansen, FSC, originally from northern California, a Brother of the Christian Schools in the Lasallian District of San Francisco-New Orleans, serving at the time as a religion teacher at Cathedral High School-El Paso, Texas.
Mrs. Katie Prejean McGrady, of the Diocese of Lake Charles in Louisiana, a wife, mother, youth minister, author, podcaster, and popular speaker who continues to work with many youth and young adult communities across the country.
In addition, the following young adults from the U.S. were also present at the Pre-Synod: Mrs. Nicole Perone Grosso of ESTEEM and the Leaership Roundtable, based in Connecticut; Mr. Christopher Russo of the Ruthenian Catholic Eparchy of Passiac, Sr. Marie Faustina Paige Wolniakowski, RSM, from the Sisters of Mercy in Michigan; Sr. Cherise Klekar and Sr. Briana Santiagoof San Antonio and the Apostles of the Interior Life, and Mr. Christian Huebner from Washington DC. See this USCCB press release for more details.
What documents were released in advance of the XV 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.
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.
March 2018:Pre-Synod Working Document, presented to Pope Francis by the young adults participating in the Pre-Synod Gathering on Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018.
June 2018:Instrumentum Laboris (Working Document) for the Synod of Bishops released on June 19, 2018. The document includes input from the global consultations, online survey, and the Pre-Synod feedback.
The 2018 Synod is focused around persons ages 16 to 29. In Italian, these young men and women are called "giovani" (and in Spanish, "jovenes"); in the United States, this phrase would most accurately translate to "youth and young adults" (or "young people"). In other English-speaking countries, the word "youth" is used; however, in the U.S., the term "youth" designates adolescents approximately ages 13 to 18, sometimes younger. The term "young adult" designates those in their late teens, 20s and 30s. Therefore, when speaking of the Synod and its focus in the USA, it is best to use the phrase "youth and young adults" (or "young people") since the age-range includes both groups.
What did "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.
How did people prepare for this Synod?
People prepared by reading Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis' 2018 apostolic exhortation on the call to holiness in today's world. This calling is integral to the vocational aspects of the XV Synod of Bishops on "Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment." Gaudete et Exsultate, or Rejoice and Be Glad can be found on the Vatican website and is available for purchase in the USCCB Store.
The USCCB also collaborated on several external preparatory resources for the XV Synod including:
Cultures of Formation: Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment: The University of Notre Dame McGrath Institute for Church Life, in collaboration with the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, hosted a conference in March 2018 on the upcoming Synod. Digital resources from the conference (including videos, research reports, and reflection questions) are now available for download on their website.
Unpacking the Synod Working Document: The Southeast Pastoral Institute (SEPI) of the U.S. Catholic Bishops SE Regional Office for Hispanic Ministry, in collaboration with the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth hosted a webinar to help unpack the Instrumentum Laboris. Watch the recorded webinar now in English or Spanish.
More Information on Ministry with 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.
World Youth Day: 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. 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.
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.
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 @email 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.