By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
“Anything that speaks to young people where they’re at is a great tool, says Sebastian Duhau, a youth minister for the Brothers of the Christians Schools in Australia who is among the young auditors at the Synod of Bishops on Young People. He spoke with Devin Watkins expressing his hope that the Church will discover how to adapt its message so young people can grasp it.
Sebastian says that a major issue at the Synod is unpacking the different understandings of accompaniment, vocation and discernment. It is evident to Sebastian that the Bishops have different views of these realities. Being able to discuss these views openly is positive, he says.
"It’s been great to have that discussion, to allow people to share their different understandings and perspectives to try and gain consensual understanding of what we’re talking about and what we mean when we use those terms."
Defining these terms has been essential in view of the drafting of the Synod document, Sebastian says.
“The primary audience is the young people themselves,” Sebastian told Devin.
“We’re trying to direct this to the young people, and for me specifically, the young people who are disconnected from the Church, who don’t see it as relevant, who feel like it doesn’t have anything to offer them”.
It is their opinions and viewpoints that the Synod document needs to “capture” so that the Church can better accompany them in the future, Sebastian said.
Reconnecting with the disconnected
Sebastian thinks that the Church needs to adopt a new approach to young people. This means adapting its language so that the young can grasp the message.
"From the birth of the Church, when Jesus was walking the earth, the Church has always been about accompaniment, and actually walking with people, building relationships with people, having conversations and loving each other."
Unfortunately, Sebastian says his experience is that the Church “talks at young people”, and “teaches about the Church”, rather than “introducing them to the person of Jesus Christ".
"We need to go back to what the roots of the Church are, go back to what this Church is really about and be an authentic, transparent, relational, loving, communal Church for all people."
Retrieving the connection
It’s all about language, Sebastian said when asked about how the Church can “get back to its roots”. He thinks social media can be an effective tool for the Church to use with young people.
"I think we need to start realizing that the language we use in approaching young people is so crucial and so important…. [We should not be] scared to change the language, and to change some of the words we use…to make it more accessible and more relevant. It’s about giving them the truth of the Gospel and the truth of what the Church is and what the Church should be but in way that actually makes sense and doesn’t seem too far-fetched or too highfalutin."