A Catholic youth leader in South Africa has said the ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality offers an opportunity for many voices to be heard including those of young people in Africa.

Speaking at a Wednesday, March 30 virtual session, which the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) organized, the Youth Coordinator for South Africa’s Cape Town Archdiocese said including the voices of the African youth in the synodal process fosters Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation to young people and to the people of God globally, Christus Vivit.

“Synodality has given us an opportunity to continue to promote and implement Christus Vivit from the last synod to ensure that our young people know that they are the now and present of the Church and not just the future,” Dominique Yon said.

Ms. Yon added, “It's been an opportunity to ensure that voices are being heard that aren't typically a part of our leadership teams that typically have a voice within church structures.”

“This couldn't be more relevant for young people to be involved in specifically. In fact, it's been helping as a game changer as most young people do not feel that they have an opportunity to be heard,” she further said during the March 30 SECAM webinar held under the theme, “The Church in Africa on the Synodal Path: Living Synodality in Local Churches.”

The South African youth leader continued, “We are in fact privileged to have this time, platform and space to overcome any false starts and resistance that we might have at present, but rather embrace this time that we have to speak and a time to have silence and discernment.”

Ms. Yon who has been a member of the Vatican International Youth Advisory Body since its establishment in November 2019 further said the Synod on Synodality is “so pivotal and so different from what we are used to when we have any kind of faith sharing experience.”

“It's an opportunity for our Church to not just assume what the youth need or want but to actually hear from them directly,” Ms. Yon, a teacher at Christian Brothers College in Parklands, Cape Town, told participants at the March 30 SECAM webinar.

In a statement announcing the virtual event shared with ACI Africa, SECAM leadership indicated that the session that would have the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Mario Cardinal Grech, as the main speaker, was “on how synodality can be translated in local contexts.”

“In this synodal process, the Holy Spirit is inviting local Churches to discern and journey together,” the statement further indicated about the webinar that would have input from other representatives of the Catholic Church in Africa, including SECAM leadership, women Religious, and the Laity.

“The focus of this synodal process is on how the Holy Spirit is inviting local Churches to journey together,” SECAM leadership indicated in the three-page letter that had the webinar program, adding, “The People of God are being invited to embrace the spirit of dialogue, participation, and co-responsibility so as to discern together how God is calling the Church to be in the third millennium.”

In her presentation, Ms. Yon said the process for the Synod on Synodality “has been so unique and positive for those who have experienced the listening circles so far to allow that time for the Holy Spirit to truly be the protagonist of synodality, the protagonist of the change that we need in our church and in our communities.”

“The timing of the Synod on Synodality couldn't be more perfect through this COVID-19 experience as a lot of our young people have been comfortable staying away from the Church,” she said.

Ms. Yon added, in reference to the youth in Africa who have kept off the church after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, “This is an opportunity to get them back, to draw them in because if young people do not feel that they are heard, then they don't feel that they are part of a community. And if they are not part of the community or church, then that is why they leave because why do they then need to stay?”

The South African Catholic youth leader continued, “This is truly an opportunity to not go back to the way things were necessarily before COVID, but to truly renew and be a better and a more listening Church as a whole.”

The Synod on Synodality, she went on to say, is “an opportunity for our Parishes, our Dioceses and our Bishops’ Conferences to utilize the responses that we receive for much needed insight into what is really going on at the grassroot level.”

“The synod is something that we've been needing in our Church. But this can only be effective if each and every one of us that are part of the Church take responsibility,” the member of the International Youth Advisory Body that is made up of 20 young people from different regions of the world and some international movements, associations and communities under the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, said.

She encouraged Catholic Church leaders at various levels “to take further initiative to invite everyone to these synodal discussions.”

“We all need to be involved in taking that extra initiative; to step outside of our comfort zones and to truly invite people on a one-on-one basis to be a part of this synodal process,” Ms. Yon said.

She added, “If we are expecting extraordinary results from this initiative, we need to put in extraordinary efforts and I truly believe if we do that, we will experience a renewed and faithful church and community.”

In an interview with ACI Africa shortly after the webinar, Ms. Yon reflected on the synodal process in the Archdiocese of Cape Town, saying, “young people are actively involved in the process.’

“Many of our young representatives or leaders are actually a part of the Synod implementation teams within the different parishes,” she said.

In the March 30 interview with ACI Africa, the Cape Town youth coordinator encouraged the people of God to make use of the preparatory document and handbook for the 2023 Synod as guidelines during the Synodal process.

“Despite any resistance that we might receive about the Synod, it is up to us to make the change that we want to see, it is up to us to truly embrace it if we want to see a difference within our Church,” Ms. Yon said.

She encouraged “everyone to really participate, to download and look up the amazing resources that are available on the Synod website; and not to just read, but to implement.”

“This will only be effective if we all truly participate and do what we are called to do, that it's not just words on a piece of paper, but that we actually put it into action,” the Catholic youth leaders told ACI Africa March 30.

This article is republished from ACI Africa.