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Church needs to meet young people where they are, U.S. observer says

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Anne Condodina

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – To reach young people and teach them the faith, Catholics must first show them that they are loved, “not just judged, discarded, or abused,” said a 29-year-old observer at the Synod of Bishops.

Yadira Vieyra, who works with migrant families in Chicago, told Vatican News Oct. 8 that the church needs to meet young people where they are. And while “a good portion” of the bishops at the synod are listening, she said, others are “still focused on preaching the truth to our youth.”

“Yes, it’s important to communicate the truth,” she said, “but also you can’t just communicate the truth without treating someone with love and care and attentiveness.”

According to Vieyra, the church’s message should be attentive to where youth are right now. It is important for the church to hear their needs and adapt its ministry so that they feel the church recognizes their humanity as well, she said.

In her small working group at the synod, she said she reminded the bishops that young people are not the same everywhere in the world. “I have made it a point to bring them back to the reality that not all of our youth are the same and their lives are not the same, not just in the U.S. but in other parts of the world.”

For example, Vieyra said, “In the U.S. not everyone is raised by a mother and a father, or in a heterosexual couple. And so, that’s important for us to be mindful of, because that’s where our youth are. And it’s important to honor their experiences and, again, minister to what life is like for them now and find a way to make them understand that they are so deeply loved by God and that he is just so excited to embrace them”

Recognizing what life is like for young people will help the church “find ways to meet them, whether it’s through social media, through more innovative, fun, happy catechesis,” Vieyra told Vatican News.

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