We are Journeying Together!

By: Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez, Archbishop of Philadelphia, Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church

Bishop Nelson Perez

Hope. Peace and healing. A desire to connect with each other, a need for community and a sense of belonging, a thirst to hear more about the things of God, which sometimes they don’t know where to find. These are some of the things I am hearing and experiencing by walking together with hundreds of young adults of the most diverse cultural, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, from across the country in this wonderful synodal experience called Journeying Together.

Thanks to all the young people, the youth ministers, campus ministers, bishops and others who have said yes to the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church’s invitation! Your voice is important in the Church.

The pandemic, political and social strife and persistent expressions of hate, racism and discrimination have affected us in many and often tragic ways over the past year.  But all of it has not been able to stop this intercultural process of encounter for young people and those who accompany them. Our virtual gatherings and the mutual accompaniment we are experiencing through them, come at an incredibly important time in our nation’s history. It is my hope that we will continue to have honest conversations with young people on issues impacting them and their peers, their experiences of faith and life, and also on how we can move ahead on these important questions of race, culture, and community.

Pope Francis encouraged us to do just this in his apostolic exhortation, Christus Vivit. In this letter addressed to young people and those who walk with them, he told us to boldly set out and take risks, to engage in real dialogue and deep listening, and to propose new ways and new methods for entering the future, in our Church and in our society. 

Pope Francis wanted us – the bishops, the young people, the laity, and the ordained ministers – to walk side by side in this process. In so doing, we would “nourish our enthusiasm, cause dreams to emerge, awaken prophecies, and enable hope to blossom. Together,” he said, “we can learn from one another, warm hearts, inspire minds with the light of the Gospel, and lend new strength to our hands.” (CV 199) It’s a beautiful description of what we are doing in Journeying Together.

The Church calls this process “synodality.” It is based in a Greek word that conveys the notion of a caravan or pilgrimage. Pope Francis told us: “ministry has to be synodal; it should involve a ‘journeying together’… toward a participatory and co-responsible Church, one capable of appreciating its own rich variety… no one should be excluded or exclude themselves.” (CV 206)

We have been very intentional about making sure every cultural family has their voice represented and a seat at the table as we journey together. In this caravan, we have so much to offer one another – and to the whole world. Hopefully, this experience will allow us to discover where the Lord is calling us to go next.

As we continue this journey, let us challenge one another. But also, let us be patient and kind to each other. We are all coming from different cultural perspectives and different generations. We have distinct outlooks on faith and society. A synodal pilgrimage like this is often long and winding. But the important thing is to continue to walk together.

The response of the young adults and the ministers to the Journeying Together process thus far fills me with great hope for the Church. Despite some gloomy statistics saying we are losing the young people in the Church, I can confidently say: ‘We have not lost them all!’. Young people’s desire to contribute, if given the opportunity, and their thirst for belonging, community and inclusion, has been evident thus far throughout the process of encounter. It also challenges us to discover who else is not at the table and what are the peripheries we still have to reach.

It is my hope that the process itself of walking together will be a fruitful and worthwhile experience for us all.  I look forward to seeing many of you at the Journeying Together in-person gathering next year. In the meantime, please keep me in your prayers and be assured of my prayers for all of you.

Christ is alive and he wants us to be fully alive!