By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Sr. Nathalie Becquart from France, Sr. Teresina Cheng Chaoying from China, Sr. Sally Marie Hodgdon from the US, Sr. Mina Kwon from Korea, Sr. Alessandra Smerilli from Italy, Sr. Lucy Muthoni Nderi from Kenya and Sr. María Luisa Berzosa González from Spain are representing women religious at the Synod of Bishops on Young People. They held a press conference on Monday evening. Before fielding questions, two of the English-speaking sisters provided their unique take on what is happening.
Sr Sally Marie Hodgdon, Superior General of the Sisters of St Joseph of Chambéry observes that those participating in the Synod of Bishops came “wanting to do something new” and there is “a sense of openness to what they were hearing”. In her 4-minute intervention, Sr Sally focused on the first part of the Instrumentum Laboris, which speaks of listening. She shared how “important it is for us as Church to listen differently to our youth who are present in the Church…and who will help co-create our future”.
Challenge to let go
Her challenge to the Bishops is to let go of “some of our traditional views of youth” – that they’re not ready, responsible, or reliable—and instead “embrace their ideas and listen with a different type of openness than we have ever had before”. The response after interventions is a clue to Sr Sally that this type of listening is indeed being practiced in the Synod Hall. Applause, she said, is very strong after an intervention from one of the young auditors.
New, fresh, challenging ideas
It’s not only young people who are offering “new, fresh and challenging ideas”, but also some of the bishops and cardinals, says Sr Sally. “The youth have offered such great insights and have told us quite candidly about their context and keep reminding us that we need to know their context”. It is in the small groups where the dialogue and banter is happening, Sr Sally says. She affirms that the young people are being equally listened to in the small groups. “And all their ideas are often accepted as amendments to the document, whether it’s a youth, a sister or Bishop or a Cardinal.”
Listening is a gift
Sr. Lucy Muthoni Nderi is a Salesian sister and youth ministry worker from Kenya. She said that she is happy with the commitment to assume a culture of listening in the Synod of Bishops. This is a gift to young people, Sr Lucy said.
We want to meet Jesus
Turning to the second Synod theme of accompaniment, Sr Lucy said that many youth say, “you communicate to us the norms, the rules, the traditions before we encounter Jesus. We would like to encounter Jesus. We would like the Church to communicate Jesus to us”. She describes this as “the logic of the serpent” in the Garden of Eden. His focus was on “what the Lord said not to do but did not say what the Lord had offered”.
Sr Lucy ended her prepared remarks with a word of thanks to the Pope. “This is a great experience. I really thank the Lord, I thank the Pope for this initiative…. Thank you for making it possible to listen to us.