Every year, we are blessed to welcome Cardinal Wuerl for Wednesday Night Dinner at the Catholic Student Center during Lent. It’s always exciting to share our lives with him and enjoy that connection to the leadership of the universal Church. However this year, we got to engage on an even deeper level in preparation for Pope Francis’ 2018 Synod on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” On March 15, twenty-six Catholic Terps gathered at the first Listening Session in the Archdiocese of Washington to share with the Cardinal the realities of life as a young Catholic in 2017.
Fr. Rob presented us with the opportunity to address several big questions with the Cardinal, and indirectly with Pope Francis himself. We prepared the week before the listening session by polling our friends, practicing and non-practicing Catholics, and discussing the truths of our experiences in the Church and in the world. Some of the questions we addressed were:
What are the biggest life challenges college students and young adults are currently facing?
What do college students/young adults want from the Church?
Why do some young adults drift away from the Church?
What are some of the Catholic gatherings you have attended that have been significant in your spiritual life?
The listening session with Cardinal Wuerl was historic, and beautifully authentic. I personally spoke about the stresses and pressures facing young adults when they graduate college and enter the workforce. We crave a place of belonging, and the Church can be a home for so many that feel like they have lost their identity.
One of the most remarkable things about the listening session was how relatable all of the responses were. The 26 of us met in small groups to discuss these questions, but every group arrived to nearly the same conclusions and truths to present to the Cardinal. We were able to speak freely and share our own observations about why young adults stop going to Mass, and what young people are looking for in the Catholic Church. We see a need for deeper theology and Catechesis at a young age; many young adults have never entered into a personal relationship with Jesus, and sharing that message with the world is important to us. We want to actively participate in the Sacred. Our generation desires an authentic and genuine experience with the Church. We want to be able to ask deeper questions about our faith, and to be heard.
Being a part of the first session in the universal church to prepare comments for Pope Francis was incredibly moving. After the listening session, I felt restored and assured that the challenges of life as a young adult in the Church are not foreign for my peers, and now they are not foreign for our leaders when they gather in Rome.