Christus Vivit is fully realized when it is implemented in local communities.
As Pope Francis noted, "We need to make all our institutions better equipped to be more welcoming to young people." (CV 216) Even more, he encouraged the leaders of the Church to allow room for a more "popular" ministry with youth and young adults, "with a different style, schedule, pace, and method. Broader and more flexible, it goes out to those places where real young people are active, and fosters the natural leadership qualities and charisms sown by the Holy Spirit." (CV 230)
- "Those of us who are no longer young need to find ways to keeping close to the voices and concerns of young people."
- "Drawing together creates the conditions for the Church to become a place of dialogue and a witness to life-giving fraternity."
- "We need to make more room for the voices of young people to be heard." (CV 38)
- "To be credible to young people, there are times when (the Church) needs to regain her humility and simply listen, recognizing that what others have to say can provide some light to help her better understand the Gospel." (CV 41)
The next step in the synodal process now involves every Catholic leader – and thinking beyond the norm to realize the practical implications: accompaniment of young people, support for youth and young adult protagonists, increased dialogue and listening opportunities, and a significant renewal of ecclesial structures (parishes, dioceses, academic institutions, religious communities, organizations and apostolates) so that "we must dare to be different... testifying to the beauty of generosity, service, purity, perseverance, forgiveness, fidelity to our personal vocation, prayer, the pursuit of justice and the common good, love for the poor, and social friendship." (CV 36)
The National Dialogue
Concurrent with the global synodal process, the Church in the United States undertook a multi-year initiative called the "National Dialogue on Catholic Pastoral Ministries with Youth and Young Adults" (or "National Dialogue" for short). Through extensive and culturally diverse consultation with youth (adolescents), young adults (collegiate and 20- and 30-somethings), parents and families of young people, and Catholic ministry leaders conducted between 2017 and 2020, the organizers were able to better understand the changing realities of the present day and explore strategies for pastoral accompaniment and response.
The National Dialogue was led by the USCCB (through its Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, in collaboration with the Secretariats of Catholic Education, Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, Cultural Diversity in the Church, and Evangelization and Catechesis), the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM), the Catholic Campus Ministry Association (CCMA), the National Pastoral Network de Pastoral Juvenil Hispana (LaRED), the Fifth Encuentro National Team of Accompaniment (ENAVE), and the National Advisory Team on Young Adult Ministry (NATYAM).
In addition, over 70 organizations across the United States, most connected to the Church's various ministries and outreach efforts to young people, collaborated as part of a National Leadership Network (NLN) that helped to define, coordinate, executive, and discern the process and its findings. The NLN met several times throughout the multi-year initiative.
After hundreds of conversations with over 10,000 young people, families, and leaders, the National Dialogue released a Final Report in 2021 (in English and in Spanish), that provided a wide look at "what's next?" when it comes to the Church and young people. Some observations and trends emerged during the National Dialogue process, including:
- There is incredible diversity among youth and young adults: culturally, ecclessially, spiritually, and experientially - and this cannot be ignored in our approach to young people.
- Even young people actively engaged in their faith still struggle with the Church
- Young people and ministry leaders want more synodal listening in all aspects of Church life in the model of the National Dialogue, the V Encuentro, and the XV Synod processes.
- Participants, by and large, want to see Church leadership to be more authentic and less judgmental and divisive.
- Most young people have a strong sense of vocational mission: they want to change the world.
- Adolescents asked the Church to reimagine its faith formation and Confirmation preparation to be more relevant to them.
- The youth are seeking greater intergenerational support, dialogue, and mentorship.
- Young adults in their 20s and 30s asked the Church for a more integrated and relevant approach to the Catholic faith.
- The young adults are seeking guidance and accompaniment during their transition years and vocational discernment.
- Both youth and young adults hope the Church would invest more in them and their ministries.
- Parents and pastoral leaders both seek more formation, feeling ill-equipped to respond to changing realities.
- Adults want more resources and support regarding outreach to disaffiliated young people.
- Families and Church leadership both expressed frustration with one another, but also desire to learn more about the issues that the other group is facing in relation to the accompaniment of youth and young adults.
These and other observations and data points resulted in ten key recommendations:
- More intentionally connect the life of faith with the lived experiences of young people.
- We all need to do more synodal listening to one another.
- Address the "authenticity gap" rather than empty platitudes.
- Increase the investment in accompaniment.
- Expand ministry with young adults.
- Reimagine faith formation.
- Reconsider preparation for Confirmation.
- Partner with parents and enhance family ministry.
- Transform ministry leadership.
- Embrace complexity.
These are taken from the National Dialogue Final Report, linked here, which includes more depth on these and other elements of the initiative. The ten recommendations, as well as the other observations, are integral to the continued work of the USCCB in relation to young people.
USCCB Next Steps
The USCCB is currently engaged in the following next steps beyond the Synod and Christus Vivit:
- Encouragement, Communication, and Formation around Pope Francis' Christus Vivit with Catholic pastoral leaders in dioceses, parishes, high school and college campuses, movements, religious communities, apostolates, and organizations - through workshops, conferences, webinars, articles, and seminars given by USCCB staff and collaborators.
- Journeying Together: an intercultural dialogue process, Journeying Together taking place 2019 to 2022, with young people, ministry leaders, and bishops of all cultural families actively listening to and learning from one another, planning for prophetic action within and beyond the Church. (more details here).
- Bishops Working Group on Youth and Young Adults, comprised of several bishops across the United States who, from 2020 to 2023, are exploring and providing episcopal guidance to the fields of youth and young adult ministries. (more details here)
- National Pastoral Framework on Youth and Young Adults, anticipated to be released in 2022, currently being developed and which will give the United States response to Christus Vivit through pastoral strategies, direction, and vision.
- Annual Celebration of youth and young adults, in solidarity with the Holy See and dioceses and countries around the world, on Christ the King Sunday, with a USCCB Guidebook for local implementation (more details here).
- National Institute on Ministry with Young Adults, an academic and pastoral initiative to network and form ministry leadership in effective approaches to young adults, formally launched in 2020 and currently being developed in collaboration with USCCB.
- National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM) developed, in partnership with USCCB, several Christus Vivit resources to support the exhortation's application for ministry with adolescents (more details here).
- World Youth Day (WYD) Integration, where USCCB provides a more comprehensive approach to the preparation and follow-up for pilgrims from the United States for the international WYD events (more details here).
What's next for you?
How will you be taking Christus Vivit to the next level in your own local community? That is the true next step in this process.
It is recommended that, in whatever you do, be in touch with your local diocesan leaders working with young and/or young adults and/or pastoral juvenil hispana to guide you along that journey.
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