One Church Many Cultures The Good News of Cultural Diversity Fall/Winter 2020 Issue


Creating a Culture of Encounter between Youth and the Church

By: Darius A. Villalobos, National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM)

Darius Villalobos

When the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM) was invited to collaborate with the USCCB to engage young people and ministry leaders in a dialogue on faith and cultural diversity, I was brand new to my role as Director of Multicultural Ministry. Being the first person in this position for the almost 40-year-old organization is an amazing privilege and it seemed like God’s timing was working to have this opportunity come together so early in my time with NFCYM.

The seeds of this process that would eventually become Journeying Together were sowed in the beginning of another process. Pope Francis called for the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment to begin with a consultation of young people through an online survey and a call to host local conversations with young people in dioceses and communities across the world. This allowed for greater engagement of the faithful in a synodal process than ever before.

To make sure that the response to the 2018 Synod, and Pope Francis’s post-synodal exhortation, Christus Vivit, would include the diversity of cultures and experiences of young people in the United States, the USCCB staff from Cultural Diversity in the Church hoped to have an in-person gathering of young adults and ministry leaders this past summer (2020). However, to make sure the voices of youth (ages 13-17) could be included in this dialogue, the opportunity to host a Cultural Diversity Youth Forum at the National Catholic Youth Conference 2019 (NCYC) was developed.

Over fifty youth attended the NCYA 2019 on scholarship and participated in a day-long program to witness to their faith, share the realities of their communities, and celebrate their diverse cultures. These youth and their chaperones would normally not have attended NCYC 2019 if not for the opportunity to be a part of this forum. We were blessed with bishops who took time to listen and accompany these youth throughout the day and encouraged them to live their faith boldly and continue to celebrate their Catholic faith and their cultures. 

Young people have a unique way of connecting cultures, seeing our similarities, and celebrating our differences. Who better to help lead the Church in doing the work of intercultural ministry than our youth and young adults? The experience that started at NCYC 2019 was one that has grown into a process of encounter and sharing our cultures through Journeying Together. What was meant to be a one-time event has turned into a year-long process of dialogue and discernment that will help our ministry with young people by allowing the Spirit to work in the gift of our diverse communities.

In many ways, the U.S. Church needs this moment, as we grapple with a polarized society that desperately needs to heed the call to unity found in the Gospels.

NFCYM is grateful to be a collaborator in this journey and we hope that you will join us. As we travel this journey, let us remember the words of Pope Francis as he calls us to be a synodal Church – one listening and walking together:

In this way, by learning from one another, we can better reflect that wonderful multifaceted reality that Christ’s Church is meant to be. She will be able to attract young people, for her unity is not monolithic, but rather a network of varied gifts that the Spirit ceaselessly pours out upon her, renewing her and lifting her up from her poverty. - Christus Vivit, 207