SAN DIEGO — In the fall of 2019, Bishop Robert McElroy convened a synod that asked young adults from every parish to “dream big” about how they would create a Church that engaged their generation and helped them to grow in their faith.
The synod, titled “Christ Lives! A Time of Dreams and Decisions,” built on the consultation the diocese convened in 2016 that resulted in the transformation of the way the local Church welcomes and serves today’s families.
Both synods were inspired by Pope Francis, who urged bishops worldwide to update their ministries to serve families and young adults in separate teaching documents. In “Christus Vivit” (Christ Lives), issued in March of 2019, the pope reflected on the challenges young people face today and encouraged them to be vibrant voices in the Church.
As in the family synod, the bishop sought out a diversity of young adult voices, ages 18 to 39, who were active in the Church and those who considered themselves unaffiliated. They represented a variety of social, economic and cultural backgrounds, including from the military, “Dreamers,” and LGBTQ, among others. More than 230 young adults met in seven deanery (cluster) meetings and shared their experiences in the Church and proposed ways the diocese and parishes could support them and nurture their spiritual life.
In late October, around 130 of them met in a General Assembly to flesh out the ideas that emerged from those meetings and to form recommendations, which the bishop had pledged to implement.
Among the proposals were calls for each deanery to better accommodate young adults by scheduling Masses and confession times on weekday evenings; and for each parish to add a line item to its budget for young adult ministry.
Bishop McElroy also issued a few recommendations of his own: that, by the end of 2022, young adults would fill 25 percent of the liturgical and leadership roles at each of the diocese’s 98 parishes; that he would appoint the same percentage of young adults to various boards and commissions at the diocesan level.
An implementation committee was beginning its work when COVID-19 began its deadly march across the world in early 2020. The group suspended its planning amid lockdowns and quarantines.
Its work resumed in early 2022. Each of the seven deaneries has convened a young adult leadership team to share programs and events across each region, one of the first recommendations.
“The priorities set forth by the Young Adult Synod remain at the forefront as we emerge from the pandemic, which halted much of the progress that was underway,” said diocesan Chancellor Marioly Galván.