Youth Ministry

Together and at the service of all young people, in accordance with Christus vivit

The International Congress on Youth Ministry has concluded. Here are the key points that emerged from the meeting


The International Congress on Youth Ministry – ‘For a Synodal Youth Ministry: New Leadership Styles and Strategies’ – which was organised by the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life ended on Saturday 25 May.

Following the first day of meetings between the Local Organising Committees of WYD Lisbon 2023 and WYD Seoul 2027, and an initial presentation of the 2025 Jubilee of Youth programme, the delegates of the Bishops’ Conferences and of international movements and associations proceeded to immerse themselves in communal reflection and discernment of how to continue the journey together with young people and at the service of young people - all young people - in accordance with the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Christus vivit, which is celebrating its 5th anniversary since being published.


Strengthen the pastoral care of proclamation and grow closer to the most vulnerable

The communal reflection on Christus vivit was the pillar of the second day of the Congress, thanks to a timely and thorough analysis of the situation of the world of youth which was presented by Rev. Prof. Gustavo Cavagnari, sdb.

The Professor of Youth Ministry at the Pontifical Salesian University highlighted four methods for addressing the challenges of emotional distress and detachment among young people today: strengthening the ministry associated with the explicit proclamation of Christ to young people; proposing various effective paths of youth spirituality; proposing opportunities for fraternity; and orienting the search for meaning (which is very present amongst young people) in a Christian direction.

Rev. Fr Christopher Ryan, speaking about youth leadership, also emphasised the two fundamental elements of youth ministry: outreach and growth. Outreach refers to the actual missionary moment in which each young person essentially needs to make their “first encounter” with the love of Christ; growth refers to the continuous and extension formation of Christian life, which aims to deepen the encounter component and involve experiences of solidarity, service, and closeness to the weak, the marginalised, and the poor.


Discernment: Experimenting with circles of spiritual conversation

A main theme of the Congress was to practise discernment via spiritual conversation. Speaker Sandra Chaoul – Director of the Discernment Leadership Program Accompaniment Network, Lebanon – explained the nature and method of practising spiritual conversation to discern God’s will, particularly to listen to what the Spirit is suggesting to the community and the Church.

Interspersed with exercises of spiritual conversation in language circles, the Congress also featured Dr Brenda Noriega – former member of the IYAB and expert in faith formation processes for young people. Applying a synodal style in order to make leaders flourish in youth groups, Noriega explained, goes far beyond the stereotypical charismatic, confident, and motivational leader. The pre-Synod, 2018 Synod and Christut vivit all point to alternative forms of youth ministry leaders who are “professors”, but who prove themselves to be friends capable of walking together with other young people. Spiritual accompaniment, then, must no longer follow patterns of the past; rather, it must encompass “spiritual friendship” based on faith and the sharing of gifts of grace, so God can work within the relationship.


A proposal to change pastoral style: Making the digital world a place of mission

An important moment during the second day of the Congress was an address by Fr Franco Galdino, Coordinator of the Youth Office of the Dicastery. Speaking about the role of technology in youth ministry, he provided participants with practical and viable means of changing the style of youth ministry. The digital world is itself a “land of mission”, that is, a place where one can become closer with young people who inhabit the “land”, many of whom are far from the Church and any kind of faith. It is a world of knowledge; of a first joyful testimony; of a first kerygma; of a first audience that listens to young people and can help project them into the “real” (non-digital) life of the Church where the reality of incarnation is alive (God has entered into our material world) and which consists of sacraments, celebrations, fraternal bonds, communal listening to the Word of God, service, and “getting one’s hands dirty” with others.


Young people, a driving force of synodality and at the forefront of bringing Jesus to life

On the morning of Saturday 25 May, the Holy Father’s Audience provided participants with a mission for their return home: “you must not neglect the ordinary paths, that is, the journey of young people in their everyday lives. I mean the kind of pastoral care made up of small steps, small numbers, simple words and actions, everyday decisions and moments of celebration and prayer in community”. The Holy Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, presided over by H. Em. Card. Américo Aguiar, closed the morning at the Vatican.

The conclusion of Saturday afternoon was divided into two significant moments. The first was an open dialogue between participants and Sr Nathalie Becquart - Under-Secretary for the General Secretariat of the Synod – who said: “Young people are the driving force of synodality!” In synodal style, beginning with a minute of silence, all participants joined her in reflecting on what they understood and received from the Spirit about the meaning of being a synodal leader.

The second moment was entrusted to the concluding reflections of Dr Gleison De Paula Souza – the Secretary of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life: “We, as the Holy See's Dicastery dealing with young people, are well aware that you (more than us!) are on the ‘front line’ of work with young people: in dioceses, parishes, movements. You come up against the real difficulties of life every day: the crises of so many young people, their problems, their resistance. But we would like to urge you never to be discouraged!” “In the Church,” the Secretary continued, “we do not follow the criterion of efficiency, of external success, of seeking consensus at all costs. Rather, we follow the example of Jesus and his word”. In fact, “young people who are in search of their own identity, of a meaning in life, of a place in the world, of a safe path to follow that will lead them to happiness. They are looking for a love that does not disappoint, for a truth that never goes out of fashion. All this they can find in Jesus and in the Church”.

29 May 2024