Bishop invites diocesan young people to
join in strategic planning for the diocese


By Dave Jolivet
Anchor Editor
davejolivet@anchornews.org

EAST FREETOWN, Mass. — For more than two years Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V. has set his sights on creating a more vibrant, welcoming, active and evangelical diocese. And it’s no secret that he wants those he shepherds to be a large part of that process — “Rebuilding in Faith and Hope.”

In addition to two major publications to all diocesan faithful, mapping out strategies and hopes for the future, Bishop da Cunha has enthusiastically sought the ideas and recommendations from everyone across the diocese.

In this year’s newly-instituted listening sessions, the bishop has invited folks from all parishes to share their thoughts and hopes. He has reached out to those who make up the local Church and has held such sessions in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

In one of his final formal listening sessions, Bishop da Cunha is reaching out to perhaps the most important core group of Catholics in the diocese — its young people — with a listening session for youth on June 27 from 1-3:30 p.m. at Cathedral Camp in East Freetown.

“When we started planning for the listening sessions, the question of having one for young people was always there in the conversation,” the bishop told The Anchor. “We all know that if we want a vibrant Church for the future, we need to keep young people connected and engaged in the Church and in their faith. 

“During the listening sessions we had, people constantly reminded me about the need to involve young people in the revitalization of the diocese and of the parishes. So, we discussed how, when and where to have a listening session for young people and we agreed to have it in connection with the Christian Leadership Institute (CLI), since many young people are already attending CLI and it will a good opportunity to bring other young people to participate and engage them in a listening session.”

Claire McManus, director of the diocesan Faith Formation Office and Youth and Young Adult Ministry, has been actively involved in organizing the upcoming youth session.

“The listening session will take place during CLI so we are weaving it into the leadership training for the youth,” McManus told The Anchor. “We will ask the CLI youth to help organize the groups when they come in, but we also want them to take part by giving their input.

“The bishop has personally invited every person whom he confirmed this year, and sent bookmarks with the information to everyone who was confirmed. We are also asking each parish to send eight-10 youth, and to help them get there by providing car pools.”

McManus said the listening to youth has been a major priority for the greater Church, especially with the upcoming Synod on Youth that will be taking place this October at the Vatican.

She said the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has also placed great emphasis on reaching out to youth in anticipation of the synod by launching The National Dialogue (nationaldialogue.info/) to train those in contact with youth on how to engage in discussions with them in a non-judgmental way.

“Bringing youth together from the parishes will give them an opportunity to voice their feelings about their local parish, since most will not have a global perspective on the Church,” McManus added. “The challenge for the bishop and those charged with the task of sifting through the comments is to get beneath the surface of what may seem like stating the obvious. For example, we conducted a test run of the listening sessions at the High School Youth Convention in March and heard such things as ‘church is boring’ and ‘Religious Ed is boring.’ When you scratch the surface we might look into how Mass engages the youth. It has nothing to do with the kind of music played, but is it done well and is it joyful and uplifting? Are homilies mindful of the challenges youth face, or are their concerns ignored or are they blamed for being enticed by the culture.? Do we need to move away from a Sunday school model of Religious Ed and look at ways to transmit Church teaching on faith and morals in a way that cuts through boring rhetoric? 

“Listening sessions with youth may not reveal such insights, but their comments should initiate additional reflection and eventually lead to change.”

In Bishop da Cunha’s most recent publication, “Introducing Strategic Planning,” with regards to youth and young adult ministries he stressed the need to “explore ways to pool resources and coordinate programs, recruit effective leaders, develop age-appropriate communications platforms and organize events that inspire this age group to participate.”

He told The Anchor that this youth listening session “will be different from the other sessions. It will be geared to young people, appropriate to their age, with different questions for them to reflect and to address.”

McManus added, “The listening sessions are an important part of the process of creating a strategic plan because the people in the parishes raise awareness of issues and needs that can be addressed going forward.”

For more information on the Youth Listening Session on June 27, contact Claire McManus at cmcmanus@dfrcs.org or call 508-675-1311.


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