Rome (Italy). From 23 to 25 May 2024, around 300 delegates of Episcopal Conferences from 110 Countries met in Rome, at the “Il Carmelo” reception house, to participate in the International Congress of Youth Ministry, organized by the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family, and Life. Two Delegates from each Country were invited to the event: the Director of YM or another referent, and a young person. Present to represent the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians were Sister Lolia Annie, FMA, collaborator of the Youth Ministry Sector, and Alessia Drago, a young woman from the Sicilian Province of Mother Maddalena Morano (ISI).

Opening the proceedings, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life, recalled that the event is located at the “crossroads” of significant events for the evangelization of young people: WYD in Lisbon 2023, which has already taken place; the 5th anniversary of Christus Vivit, and the preparation for Youth Jubilee 2025, which is taking place, and the WYD in Seoul, Korea, which will be in 2027.

“The Congress, therefore, will be a precious opportunity to ‘learn from each other’ and perhaps will give us the chance to discover new young leaders capable of opening new horizons of hope in the years to come. Young people, in fact, can be the protagonists of renewal so that the Church is ‘unlocked’ and becomes young again (cf. CV, 34). So, let’s open ourselves to young people and also open ourselves with hope to the future! A great task is entrusted to them”. (Full text)

Around the theme, “For a synodal youth ministry: new leadership styles and strategies”, representatives and leaders of various movements from all over the world reflected and discussed new leadership styles and strategies in Youth Ministry. From the discussion emerged the need for an inclusive and participatory approach in guiding young people within the Church.

Various prospects have been identified, including the search for new leadership styles that enhance the active participation of young people, such as collaborative leadership. The latter, specifically, involves the diffusion of a participatory culture in which young people are involved in decision-making processes that allow them to strengthen the sense of responsibility and belonging.

Team Building was also discussed as a cooperation strategy to achieve common objectives. And also, formation and accompaniment to prepare young leaders in all dimensions was discussed. The vital role of mentoring was also highlighted, with ongoing accompaniment from experienced mentors offering guidance and support.

Another aspect was that of open and inclusive communication, agreeing that the implementation of transparent communication practices certainly facilitates dialogue and mutual understanding between young people and ecclesiastical leaders, ensuring that all voices are heard and valued in regard to every young person.

During the sessions, various strategies were then presented for a synodal and effective YM. Synodality was proposed through the creation of spaces for listening and dialogue, where young people can freely express their experiences, ideas, and concerns. Periodic youth synod assemblies have been proposed in which to discuss and propose community initiatives, such as volunteering experiences, cultural and social activities that strengthen the sense of cohesion and mission among young people.

The Congress was enriched by times of sharing in the plenary meetings, where young people shared their experiences of synodal participation. Their interventions highlighted the importance of involvement in the responsibility of forming viable and mature communities.

A very significant moment was the audience with Pope Francis in the Sala Clementina, in the Vatican. Expressing gratitude for the success of the WYD in Lisbon, the Pope left some precious indications: take care not to neglect the journey of young people in daily life, in ordinariness; accompaniment in spiritual discernment – synodal, personal, and oriented towards truth. And, last but not least, he recalled the importance of listening to young people, “real listening, which does not remain half-hearted, or just superficial”. (Discourse)

The resonances of Alessia at the end of the experience:

Participating in the International Youth Ministry Congress was an extraordinary experience, which left a significant mark on my spiritual and personal life. Being surrounded by young people from every corner of the world, united by the same search for meaning and authenticity in faith, made this event a moment of profound enrichment and growth.

One of the most relevant moments was the open and sincere dialogue with other young people about their experience of faith and the daily challenges they face. Listening to their stories of hope, struggle, and rebirth made me feel part of a global community of believers, united in the common goal of proclaiming Jesus to other young people.

During the Congress, I understood that to proclaim Jesus to other young people it is essential to bear witness to a faith lived with joy and coherence. Actions and loving presence speak louder than words to the hearts of young people. Participating in this conference made me become more aware of the importance of realizing first of all, the love that Jesus has for us. Only with a true opening of the heart, which requires love and trust, can we transform the lives of the young people we meet.

In conclusion, the Congress represented a crucial moment to reflect on the role of young people in the Church and on how synodality can become a fundamental pillar in their guidance and formation. Future challenges will concern putting into practice the ideas and strategies discussed, giving life to a truly synodal, dynamic, and inclusive Youth Ministry.

The hope is that this approach will contribute to forming young leaders capable of guiding with wisdom and compassion, building an increasingly open and welcoming Church, where hope remains the basis of everything

Photo: Flickr LFV Dicastery

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