Pontifical council composed of youth proposed again; A letter to youth from the synod; More woman talk; Coming soon!  My interview Sr. Sally Hodgdon, CSJ

First off, we are getting ready to deliver our petition urging the Synod of Bishops and Pope Francis to make room for women religious superiors to vote!

We are nearly 8000 strong!  But we want the strongest voice possible!

If you have not signed the petition or shared it, please do so!

The Synod office and many others inside the Synod hall know about this petition.  Help us do our part to further full equality for women in the church.  SIGN and SHARE!

The briefing

Today, we were joined by Sr. Alessandra Simerilli, a powerhouse advocate for the poor and the earth, based in Italy; Archbishop Matteo Maia Zuppi of Italy who has been called the "Bergoglio of Bologna", and is known for his peace activism and the preface he wrote for James Martin's book on building bridges with the LGBT;  Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, C.M. of Ethiopia;  Fr. Alexandre Awe Mellow, secretary for the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life; and instead of Greg Burke conducting, we had Paloma Garcia Overjero, the first lay woman appointed as Vice Director of Communications.

It was gratifying to see her in action with her very relaxed and easy going style.

Sr. Alessandra Smerilli began her comments by saying that she "dreams of a prophetic church" where economics and ecology are addressed recognizing they are inextricably linked to the suffering of the poor.  Citing the importance of Laudato Si, she said that if we don't work together as a church to address the ills in our  environment we will generate a whole new poverty.

Pontifical council of youth proposed again

Early on, when Sr. Sally Hodgdon, CSJ, the Vice President of the UISG, proposed that there be an International Pontifical Council made of young people during her four minute intervention, she was cheered by the young people sitting in the synod hall, a phenomena that has marked this synod as a very different experience from others.

Prefect Paolo Ruffini mentioned it again today as part of his press report and it seems the idea has come up quite a number of times at the synod, properly encouraged with the "woo-hooing" from the young auditors.  In addition, Ruffini mentioned that "a woman could head up the council."

To which I say, "Woo hoo!"

The idea of a council has traction and could serve as an important vehicle for creating a church that is, not only more fully engaged with youth, but more in touch and empathetic to the variety of problems they face, including those who have moved away from the church because of its rigidity and exclusive ways.  It could also serve as a vehicle for addressing the gap in equal opportunity for roles for women in the church.

The other idea that has gained traction and is popular with the young adults attending the synod is the idea of creating a digital platform for engaging youth.  Over and over again, this idea has been applauded by the youth at the synod whenever it is introduced.

Part three of the Instrumentum Laboris is being discussed this week and the focus is on developing concrete strategies for engaging young Catholics, not only here at the synod, but in the wider church.

That will be the real test of this month long adventure.

A letter to youth from youth

It has been decided that a group of people from the synod will compose a letter to young people, separate from the final document which will be longish, and probably ignored by too many Catholics, young, old, ordained, and lay.

The elected group of eight participants to begin drafting a message are youth auditors  Briana Santiago of the United States, Anastasia Indrawan of Indonesia along with Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui, Auxiliary Bishop Emmanuel Gobilliard of Lyon, Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, and Bishop Eduardo Horacio Garcia of San Justo, Argentina.  Fr. Alois, prior of the Ecumenical Community of Taize, and auditor Michele Falabretti, leader of the youth pastoral care office at the Italian bishops’ conference are also part of the group.

To add some context, while there has been a lot of good feelings about the connectedness people feel at the synod, there are those who seem to be unshakable in their demands for a new way.

In an interview with Mary Rezac from Catholic News Agency, Sister Benedicta Turner of the Daughters of St. Paul hopes that the synod fathers recognize young people’s desire for clarity and truth, even when it is difficult.

“It is a generation that strongly values clarity and authenticity, perhaps to a fault.  Slick, expensive presentations go ignored while raw, sincere testimony is held with reverence,” she said.

Turner said that Church leaders need to return to an authentic presentation of the totality of the Gospel, and to challenge rather than compromise with the current culture.

“I think we need leaders who are willing to answer the hard questions young people are asking, who are more inclined to engage the culture than to make excuses for it, and who are willing to admit mistakes and failure with honesty and humility,” she said.

“We need leaders who are unafraid to give us the Gospel in its most intense, undiluted form; the Gospel for which the martyrs offered their lives and whose beauty has inspired countless works of art over the centuries,” she added.

Only this kind of engagement with the Gospel and the hearts of young people will be effective in calling them out of complacency and into relationship with Christ, she said.

Br. Neil Conlisk, a 30 year-old Carmelite brother, told CNA that he feared the synod’s bishops would not listen to young people’s desire for authenticity and truth and that they would continue on with “business as usual” and talk past young people.  

“No one wants a worldly Church,” he said. “I fear that the Synod Fathers will try to change the Church in the name of the youth, but this ‘change-the-church’ fever is a symptom of the illness that has caused the long decline, and we simply cannot afford to destroy the Church any more.”

“We are hearing, from many bishops, moralistic therapeutic deism, but we want the fullness of the faith within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” he added.

In addition to speaking the truth, Johnson said that what he hopes arises from the synod is a greater recognition throughout the Church of the need to live lives of holiness, so that young people have examples to follow in the Christian life.

“Young people need to see examples of holiness so that they know that Christianity is true, it’s beautiful and its attainable,” he said.

When young people need to see that there are Christians who “weren’t born perfect, but there are people who admit their weaknesses and rely on the Lord’s strength and are able to lead lives of holiness,” whether that person is a bishop or a priest or a lay member of the Church, he said.

This need for examples of Christian holiness is not new, Borsellino told CNA, but it is a constant need throughout the history of the Church.

They are getting real and I love it!

More woman talk

Paolo Ruffini also shared the ongoing dialogue about the role of women.

He said synod participants say that there needs to be a "cultural conversion" in the Church when it comes to the role of women.

Further, there is agreement that they need to be given an equal place, not only in society, but in the Church.

He also reported that there was a proposal that a Synod on women should be convened.

Let's get some dates on the calendar for these proposals and make it happen!

Coming soon!  My interview with Sr. Sally Hodgdon, CSJ

Sr. Sally Hodgdon, CSJ, is Vice President of the International Union of Superiors General and one of women who could vote along with her male counterparts at the synod if all things were equal.

While I will post the whole interview in full this weekend, I just want to report that, Sr. Sally confirmed that the USG and the UISG will be developing a proposal and strategy for getting women the vote at synods.

Wouldn't it be great if that were in place for the next synod in 2019?  Of course, it would have been better if it had been in place a long time ago, but this is progress.

The walls around the Vatican that have kept women out are crumbling as we speak!

An important voice at the synod coming from Nigeria

Vincent Paul Nneji of Nigeria urged the church to be more just in its treatment of lay people in his region.  His message moved beyond what has become the usual deference displayed, to an authentic cry that shed light on the real experiences of youth.

He talked about survival.  And basic needs, like work...and food...and shelter.

And his pointsare really worth repeating.

A lot of us work as volunteers in the church (with our talents and time) because we derive joy in God's service.  

However, instead of feeling part of her, we feel used by her as many of us have little or no means of livelihood and we have little or no choice other than to 'depend on the scraps that falls from the master's table.'  

We have talents, but there is little or no platform to express the same, even as church volunteers.

  • The church should pay apt attention to our upbringing, especially with choosing our career path.
  • The church should deliberately outline the steps for vocational discernment in the catechism.
  • We ask for a church that prioritizes more the capacity for development for young people rather than structural or institutional development.

We want to start dreaming again with firm hope that they church will pay more attention to our individual dreams, encouraging and accompanying us in the process of achieving them.

To that the whole church should say, "Amen!".

Possible progress in Vatican-North Korean talks


In case you didn't see it, Pope Francis and Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin met with the president of South Korea today, Mr. Jae-in Moon.  It has been reported that the pope received an oral invitation to visit North Korea through President Moon, but that they will look for an formal invitation before responding.

I am recalling the joyful face of Sr Mina Kwon of S. Korea and  the Archbishop of S. Korea,  that I heard in the first week of the press briefings and can only imagine the hope they feel at these developments.

May the voices of faith, reason, and hope fill the airwaves and help drown out those that stoke hatred and fear.

Deborah Rose-Milavec

Reporting from Rome