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15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment
October 3-28, 2018
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 3-28, 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."
Additional information on the Synod can be found on the official website.
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.)
What 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 3-28, 2018
Where will the 15th Ordinary Synod take place?
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."
Who attends this Synod?
The Synod is not a "synod of youth," but of bishops to discuss youth and young adults in light of their current realities and the journey of vocational discernment. There will be a few young adults (18-29) present as auditors, but the voting members of the Synod are bishop representatives from around the world. The delegates from the United States are:
- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, President of the USCCB
- Archbishop José H. Gomez, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Vice President of the USCCB
- Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth
- Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, Diocese of Bridgeport, 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
There will be many topics discussed at the Synod, that will emerge from the Instrumentum Laboris. There are no planned questions at this point in the process. Rather, the gathering will be a conversation that includes interventions by bishops and small group conversations.
What is the International Pre-Synod Gathering? Who attended it?
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. Participants were selected from across the globe to meet and discuss the questions posed in the Preparatory Document, and develop a document summarizing their discussion to inform the proceedings of the Synod.
The young adults are:
addition to the three delegates chosen by the USCCB to represent the parishes
and dioceses of the United States, there will be other delegates at the
Pre-Synod representing other groups (i.e. Eastern Rite Catholic Churches,
various apostolates and movements) who live in the U.S. The bishops are
grateful for all of their efforts and their willingness to serve as
representatives on behalf of their peers.
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.
February 2018: Pre-Synod
Work Outline, beginning draft
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.
Who are the "young people" of the Synod?
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 does "vocation" mean in the context of this Synod?
How can I prepare for the Synod?
The USCCB has also collaborated on two preparatory resources for the upcoming 15th Ordinary Synod.
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.
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.
More information on consecrated life
More information on married life
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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