Milan (Italy). On 6 November 2021, in the Duomo of Milan, the Cathedral Church of the Archdiocese of Milan, 200 young people between 18 and 30 years of age met with 10 Bishops at the helm of the Dioceses of the Lombardy Region and 4 Auxiliary Bishops of Milan to talk in Thematic Tables, thus starting the “Youth and Bishops” project desired by the Lombard Episcopal Conference (CEL) and coordinated by Odielle (Oratories Dioceses Lombardy).
The Youth and Bishops Project was born to welcome the solicitations of Pope Francis’ Exhortation “Christus Vivit” at the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops of 2018 “Young people, faith, and vocational discernment”, to give concreteness and continuity to this journey begun in the universal Church, to walk together with young people.
The participants, who represent oratories, associations, and youth realities of the Region, welcomed the opportunity to open a dialogue with the Pastors of the Lombard Churches on five themes: vocation and work; affections, life, and self-giving; ecology; rites; interculture.
Among the 200 seated at the tables were four young people from the Salesian Youth Movement (SYM) Lombardy Emilia and a young Daughter of Mary Help of Christians, Sr. Mafalda Montanini, with the Councilor for Youth Ministry of Holy Family Province (ILO), Sr. Simona Bisin, and the Delegate for Youth Ministry of the St. Charles Borromeo Province (ILE), Fr. Paolo Caiani, SDB.
Generating sparks to change the world
The plenary session begins with prayer and with the welcoming words of the Archbishop of Milan, Msgr. Mario Delpini, who uses an image to describe the situation of the Church today, which has a message of salvation, the Gospel; has an ardor, the mandate, but does not know who is willing to accept it:
“The message is important and can guide the way, indicate the future, sow hope. The messenger is full of ardor and goodwill, has a sense of responsibility for the message carried, and feels the desire to share this message. But it seems that the address has been lost.. “. And he concludes, “This moment of grace, in this very significant place, does not only mean exchanging opinions, but generating sparks so that a blazing fire may ignite us. We are not people who write a document, but who share an ardor. (…) We Bishops have desired this meeting because this message is a fire, these messengers are full of ardor and will generate sparks!”.
The sharing takes place inside an unpublished Milan Cathedral, in which 14 thematic tables are set up. A bishop and a dozen young people sit together around each table. Profound listening, within an open and sincere dialogue, tries to grasp how young people see these issues, in the complexity of the moment we are living.
Sr. Mafalda, engaged on the subject of Rites at the table with the Bishop of Mantua, Msgr. Gian Marco Busca, and with other young people, tells of “a lively and engaging dialogue, not a simple collection of opinions nor a desire to reach something concrete, starting from the task modules, but also from the voices of many other young people we interviewed in this period, or friends with whom we exchanged ideas on the subject in order to be able to bring the voice of as many people as possible, near or far from the Church.”
Three hours are available for the first part dedicated to the sharing and then the syntheses, elaborated by the table facilitators, taking up what emerged from the five themes and exposed by the spokespersons, while an artist draws a visual representation of the concepts behind them.
A real moment of synodal journeying
At the conclusion of the meeting, Msgr. Maurizio Gervasoni, Bishop of Vigevano and responsible for the Youth Ministry of CEL, thanked the young people, “Thank you to all of you who accepted with enthusiasm and seriousness the invitation that obliges us Bishops to the same seriousness and commitment . (…) Today we had a real experience of the synodal journey that makes us mature in an attitude of listening and of wise research.”
The first step
Rereading the experience, Sr. Mafalda observes, “It is the face of a vibrant Church that listens, that sets out on a journey with young people, starting from where they are, getting close, and trying to walk together. The first step for the messenger is to find the way, find an address, find to whom deliver the message considered important.”
The “Youth and Bishops” journey will continue in all the Lombard Dioceses with initiatives coordinated by the Youth Ministry offices and regional events, towards the goal of World Youth Day in Lisbon, in 2023.