Sign up for email alerts from The Monitor | Diocese of Trenton
The Monitor | Diocese of Trenton, NJ  
Advanced Search

home : news : our diocese October 18, 2017

6/16/2017 3:14:00 PM
Dozens from around Diocese meet with Bishop to discuss young people in the Church ahead of synod
Nearly three dozen personnel who work with young people gather June 13 in the Chancery, Lawrenceville, for a consultation with Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M. The group met in preparation for the October 2018 Synod of Bishops, the theme of which is “young people, faith and vocational discernment.” Staff photos 

Nearly three dozen personnel who work with young people gather June 13 in the Chancery, Lawrenceville, for a consultation with Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M. The group met in preparation for the October 2018 Synod of Bishops, the theme of which is “young people, faith and vocational discernment.” Staff photos 

Attendees look on as Father Michael A. Santangelo, pastor of Epiphany Parish, Brick, and diocesan Scouting chaplain, discusses time and busyness in young people’s lives.

Attendees look on as Father Michael A. Santangelo, pastor of Epiphany Parish, Brick, and diocesan Scouting chaplain, discusses time and busyness in young people’s lives.

Church wants to hear from young people via online questionnaire

To involve young people from around the world in preparations for the Synod of Bishops on youth in 2018, the Vatican has released an online questionnaire to better understand the lives, attitudes and concerns of those ages 16-29.

Across the Diocese of Trenton, the link to the survey is being sent to young people through Catholic high schools, youth ministry programs, college campus ministries and young adult groups.  The diocesan communications office has also put the link out on diocesan social media.

The questionnaire – available in English, Spanish, French and Italian – can be found on the synod's official site.

The general secretariat of the synod launched the website June 14 to share information about the October 2018 synod on “young people, faith and vocational discernment" and to link to an online, anonymous survey asking young people about their lives and expectations.

The answers to the questionnaire, along with contributions from bishops, bishops' conferences and other Church bodies, will provide the basis for the drafting of the working document for the assembly, synod officials said.

The list of 53 mostly multiple-choice questions is divided into seven sections: general personal information; attitudes and opinions about oneself and the world; influences and relationships; life choices; religion, faith and the Church; internet use; and two final, open-ended questions. The write-in questions are an invitation to describe a positive example of how the Catholic Church can “accompany young people in their choices, which give value and fulfillment in life” and to say something about oneself that hasn’t been asked in the questionnaire.

~ Catholic News Service


By Jennifer Mauro | Associate Editor

Responding to a call from the Holy See, nearly three dozen people who work with youth and young adults gathered June 13 to discuss “young people, faith and vocational discernment,” the theme of the 2018 Synod of Bishops.

On behalf of Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., youth ministers and organizations that work with young people, clergy, diocesan staff, and Catholic school chaplains, counselors, teachers and personnel from around the Diocese were invited to the Chancery in Lawrenceville to help form the Diocese’s response to a Vatican questionnaire on how to better retain, attract and better meet the needs of young people in the Church.

Among the topics discussed were the main challenges and opportunities for young people today; the impact of technology and social media, and what those ages 16 to 29 are seeking from the Church.

“I’m excited that our Church is talking about youth and looking for ways to better engage them and form them and bring them to a greater relationship with Christ and the Church,” said Dan Waddington, associate director for youth ministry for the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life.

“I’m incredibly grateful that our Bishop would include so many people in this conversation,” he said.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis called for the national conferences of bishops, Church bodies and young people to answer the questionnaire ahead of the synod. Bishop O’Connell will take the information from the meeting, along with information gleaned from an earlier consultation with young adults, and write the diocesan response to the questionnaire. The Bishop’s Diocese of Trenton response will go to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops by September to become part of the U.S. response to the Holy See. 

“We thought we should get those who are working directly with youth, those who have insight into the hearts and minds of the young,” Bishop O’Connell said.

Day-to-Day Challenges

During the daylong meeting, which was facilitated by Terry Ginther, diocesan executive director of Pastoral Life and Mission, the Bishop offered encouraging words.

Describing how he meets young people during his visits to parishes and schools across the Diocese, Bishop O’Connell said, “I look in the faces of these youngsters … in hope and prayer that they will stay connected to the Church.”

“I’m grateful for your presence here. I depend on you to work with the young,” he continued. “I need to hear from you today. Let’s work together.”

In encouraging discussion, Ginther said, “This is about describing the situation as we see it. We’re trying to describe the circumstances of the young.”

To meet this goal, participants explained their individual roles working with youth and young adults and stated what they see as some of the biggest challenges facing young people today as well as significant opportunities in reaching them through ministry.

“Often, we rush to solve problems we haven’t even named,” Ginther said. “If we as a Church can’t name them, we can’t solve them.”

Among the list of challenges were time/busyness; anxiety about the future/college; truth and trust; no sense of self; fear of failure; acceptance; loneliness; isolation; lack of true intimacy with the Church; psychological issues such as depression; having no voice in the Church; and the fear of stigma for some young people whose parents immigrated to the United States and don’t have legal documents.

David Roman of St. Anthony Claret Parish, Lakewood, said those who come from families without papers often express a feeling of, “I don’t want you to look at me differently.”

“They want to be accepted,” he said.

The list of opportunities cited by attendees included peer-to-peer ministry; the fact that many are involved in Catholic parishes, schools and groups and greater self-awareness, leading many to seek answers.

One of the main topics discussed – technology – made both lists. Though many said they were reaching young people through websites and social media, others admitted there was room for improvement when using technology as an evangelization tool.

At the same time, there was a general consensus that technology and social media are leading more young people into a state of constant busyness and anxiety, leaving less time for self-reflection and one-on-one discussion with the Lord.

“It’s a challenge for young people to take ownership of their time,” said Father Michael A. Santangelo, diocesan Scouting chaplain and pastor of Epiphany Parish, Brick. “One of the biggest struggles is [them] finding sufficient time for what is important.

“As a Church, it’s imperative we help young people recognize that what is truly important is what comes after this world,” he added.

Discerning truth is of deep importance to young people today. The participants said they often hear the question, “What is truth?”

Kathy McBurnie, youth ministry coordinator in St. Catharine Parish, Holmdel, said that question ties directly into a lack of stillness in one’s life.

“They don’t have the time to build relationships with the people who could help them understand truth,” she said.

Other time roadblocks were tied to life pressures, such as sports events on Sundays, balancing work and educational responsibilities and planning for college. It was mentioned that balancing work responsibilities is also important in many cases where it is imperative young people have a job to help support the family income.

When Everyone’s a Winner

With these life pressures come the fear of failure, and there was much discussion on the ability of young people to handle failure in today’s “trophy” society, where children grow up being rewarded for less-than-stellar performances. Hearing all their lives that they have a purpose and mission, being rewarded at every turn makes it more difficult to establish the God-given abilities they do possess to accomplish that mission, some said.

“There’s this sense that everyone is just as good at something as everyone else, instead of giving young people a chance to explore what they are good at,” Father Santangelo said. “Their individual self-worth doesn’t come from what they can or can’t do, but the fact that they’re made in the image of God with their own, individual skills and talents.

“Unless we give them a chance to explore their gifts and talents, we do a disservice to them and what they can accomplish. We are depriving them the opportunity to excel because it breeds the attitude, ‘Why should we try?’

“We owe it to our young people to give them the opportunity to excel and acknowledge it when they do,” he said.

Making their Voices Heard

In doing its part to aid the Diocese’s response to the Vatican’s questionnaire, those gathered were also asked to work in groups. Questions included: “How does the Church listen to what young people are really experiencing in their daily lives?” and “What do young people really ask of the Church?”

When it comes to how the Church listens, answers ranged from empowering young people to become leaders in parishes, schools and social justice programs, to dialogue with youth ministers and giving  young people activities and places where they can “be themselves.” That, it turns out, is what young people are looking for, too, said those who walk alongside them in their day-to-day journeys. One of the responses to what people are asking of the Church was “a place to belong.” Others included a foundation; a place for prayer; good homilies, to be taken seriously and be heard, and “a place to experience the sacred.”

Following the meeting, Ginther said she found the gathering successful on multiple fronts.

“I thought the meeting was a valuable sharing of experience and ideas. I was thrilled by hope-filled commitment of the people gathered to walk in faith with young people,” she said. 

In addition to giving the Bishop the information he will need to write the diocesan response to the questionnaire, she said it will also help the Diocese’s new Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries establish priorities for the future. Youth and young adults, which currently fall under the Department of Evangelization and Family Life, will have its own department effective July 1.

Waddington, who will serve as the department’s director, agreed, saying, “This not only supports the synod; it will support us.”

By the end of the afternoon, Catherine Werner, youth ministry coordinator in St. Joseph Parish, Toms River, was already experiencing that support.

“It’s good for us to know that as youth ministers, we are not alone. We are one diocesan family,” Werner said in having the different youth-serving personnel gathered together.

In addition, Werner said the synod sends a positive message to the Church’s next generation of Catholics.

“The meeting lets our young people know they’re important and that we want to encourage their vocation,” she said. “I would hope our young people would hear God’s call for them and respond with a joyful, ‘Yes.’”

Waddington agreed. “It’s a gift to our young people because it gives them a voice through those who are walking side by side with them. Kids’ voices were heard today.”



Related Stories:
• Upcoming synod needs young people's voices, Pope says
• Vatican Youth Forum gives young people a voice ahead of synod, WYD
• Pope: Don't pretend to be teens; help youths see blessings of adulthood
• Diocese creates new Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries
• Dozens nominated by pastors invited to be young adult leaders in Diocese

Subscription Login

From the Bishop
Pope Francis

The Monitor, 701 Lawrenceville Road, P.O. Box 5147, Trenton, NJ 08638-0147 | PHONE: 609-406-7404 | FAX: 609-406-7423 |

Copyright © 2011 | | All Rights Reserved.
Any use of materials on this website, including reproduction, modification or distribution without the prior written consent of the Diocese of Trenton is strictly prohibited.

Software © 1998-2017 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved