By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Yadira Vieyra, a 29-year-old researcher and assistant for migrant families, who lives in Chicago in the US is participating in the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment as an auditor. She spoke with Devin Watkins about her experience in the Synod and the ideas she brings with her to the Synod Fathers.
Yadira said she is excited that she is able to participate in conversations which will “influence what the Pope says to our youth in his exhortation”. She is equally excited about “the way in which the Church will now minister to them where they are in life right now”.
Recognize our humanity
When naming where youth are right now, Yadira said that many seek to have their humanity recognized through political activism. Therefore, she said, it’s just as important for the Church to hear this need and minister to young people so that they feel the Church recognizes their humanity as well.
Reach youth where they are
Yadira thinks that “a good portion” of the Bishops are listening. She characterized others as “still focused on preaching the truth to our youth”. While she agrees, she also reiterated that the message needs to reach youth where they are.
The family has changed
This reality begins by recognizing that the families in which young people grow up have changed a lot, Yadira said.
In the US not everyone is raised by a mother and a father, or in a heterosexual couple. And so, that’s important for us to be mindful of, because that’s where our youth are. And it’s important to honor their experiences and again minister to what life is like for them now and find a way to make them understand that they are so deeply loved by God and that He is just so excited to embrace them. They just need to be open to that. And the only way to be open to that is for the Church to meet them where they are.
Gospel of inclusion and love
Yadira said young people need to hear the Gospel preached as “inclusion and love”. Her reminder to the Bishops in the small group meetings is that youth are not the same all over the world.
I have made it a point to bring them back to the reality that not all of our youth are the same and their lives are not the same not just in the US but in other parts of the world. It’s important for them to be mindful of that. That while life may look alike in some parts of the world, it’s not the same in other parts of the world. And it’s important for us to again to be mindful, be open to what life is really like for our youth right now and find a way to meet them whether it’s through social media, through more innovative, fun, happy catechesis.
Hearing other youth
The youth festival was an enjoyable experience for Yadira who enjoyed listening to the stories, some of which were very painful. “I loved how they ended with the feeling of God’s love in their lives. I mean, coming to God and experiencing God’s love isn’t a direct path. Everyone experiences it differently, and also at different stages in their life,” Yadira said. Yadira was impressed that the experience of community was the common thread weaving itself through the stories she heard.
Loved, not judged
There is one aspect where Yadira voiced the need for the Church to change its approach.
The Church has a lot of work to do making sure that our youth feel loved and not just judged, or discarded, or abused. It’s important for us to make sure that we communicate in a way that is loving. Yes, it’s important to community the truth. But also you can’t just communicate the truth without treating someone with love and care and attentiveness.