By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Allyson Kenny, from Canada, is a collaborator with the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. This means that they are helping get the Synod’s news out on the official Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. In addition to being a professional in Catholic media, Allyson is also a convert to Catholicism of 5 years. She spoke to Devin Watkins about her experience working at the Synod and the importance of crafting the Synod’s message in a digital age.
Camaraderie, unity and joy
Unlike past Synods, Allyson has been hearing that the atmosphere at the current Synod is one of “camaraderie and unity”. Unity is necessary because of the subject matter of the evangelization of youth, which has also brought a “real sense of joy”, Allyson says.
Accompaniment is a recurring theme, Allyson went on to say. There’s a movement away from a “hierarchical structure” with people at the top “imparting information” toward:
“a meeting of equals recognizing that the young have so much to offer and to give in their perspective, and that they can also then learn in turn from these elders in the faith”.
Other themes Allyson mentions are that of sexuality – “how to develop an integral sexuality” – and the desire in youth for “mission and a desire for meaning in their lives”.
“The Synod Fathers and auditors are really talking a lot about how to concretize that and make that something that can exist at the grass roots level”, she said.
The Synod in a digital age
Allyson is contributing to a first ever occurrence at a Synod of Bishops. Never before has a Synod of Bishops had its own social media profiles.
“The Synod planners recognize that the internet and mobile phones are the main way that young people are being formed nowadays”.
Communicating the Synod to young people
Many young people participating in the Synod are asking for a document “telling young people how to interact online and how we can create communities online”. Allyson is not convinced that a document is the right tool since “you can’t talk about the new age of digital media when you are using an old method”. She would prefer an app, an interactive video series, or online seminars or gchats. This way the
“Church could get up to speed in terms of what’s going on digitally, and then also have a strong presence in that forum”, Allyson said.
Connected but isolated
“We are more connected than ever in this globalized digital age and yet young people also feel very isolated and alone”, Allyson remarked. At the same time, she acknowledges that it is difficult to transform the online community experience into reality.
“When Christ and His apostles were together, they walked together, they lived together, they ate together. I think there’s really something to be said for the need for personal witness to the Gospel as well as journeying together. The digital world can be used as a great supplement to preaching the Gospel and to evangelization, but it will never be able to take over from those face to face, person to person, heart to heart interactions.”
Who is our audience here?
Allyson says that some of the auditors told her that the question “Who is our audience?” has come up in several small groups. “Is our audience the young faithful? The young everywhere? Just Bishops who are then going to pass that on to priests and religious sisters?” Allyson would like multi-part document that would speak to the Bishops of each of these audiences. “Taking the document and then turning it into these other types of multimedia forms” would then be a great way that Bishops could empower their laity and young people.