CHARLESTON—Youth and young adult ministry received a ‘spiritual pep rally’ in the form of the apostolic exhortation, Christus Vivit (“Christ Lives”), during a recent gathering with a representative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Pope Francis released the document after the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment. While focused on youth and young adults, it addresses the entire world, including Church leadership. It is a model in listening and responding with compassion and love, said Paul Jarzembowski, the national coordinator of youth and young adult ministries for the USCCB.
Jarzembowski presented the highlights of Pope Francis’ reflection to diocesan youth ministers, directors of religious education and campus ministers of the Diocese of Charleston on Jan. 16, urging them to share it with everyone in their communities.
The exhortation is that to be credible to young people, the Church sometimes needs to listen, and to do so with humility. Jarzembowski said youth want to belong but need to be addressed in a way that resonates with them.
During the synodal process, Pope Francis and the bishops heard a lot of stories about young people, he explained. And they listened.
“People do not learn about one another if they do not listen to one another,” he said. “Young people should not be generalized as a group, because that turns them into a separate, polarized culture. Everyone is worth encountering. Young people respond to this. And if we don’t invest in them, they won’t invest in us.”
Jarzembowski said his favorite part of Christus Vivit is that it calls people to be more pastoral and not programmatic.
“We need to be reminded that the events and catechesis and liturgical experiences are a means to an end,” he said. “The youth and young adults have their own experiences and realities, they have their own issues. What’s going to touch their hearts is responding to their struggle in life.”
Collaboration is key, he said, and the way to work together is to respond to situations with a “both/and” answer and not with “either/or.”
The event was sponsored by the diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. Deacon Jerry White, director, told The Miscellany that older generations need to actively welcome and employ the gifts that younger people bring and not dismiss them.
“Adults have to listen and invite them to be part of the community of the Church, otherwise we won’t see them again,” he said.