Synod on young people from African perspective
The Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment was declared open by the Holy Father on October 3, 2018 and will be brought to an end on October 28, 2018 in Rome, Italy. The aim of this synod is to “accompany young people on their way of life towards maturity, so that through a process of discernment, they can discover their life project and realise it with joy, opening the encounter with God and with men, and actively participating in the building up of the Church and society.” Some preparatory questions were addressed to the different continents in the world. The following questions were addressed to Africans:
What plans and structures in pastoral vocational care for young people best respond to the needs of your continent?
Pastoral Care are those practices that support the spiritual and moral well‐being, welfare and development of children and young people. Vocation itself is a calling from God!
The current pastoral vocational care for young people is not yielding expected fruit, because it is strange to African youths. It is also directly against the African Value of Communal and Religious Life. A strict clerical and hierarchical structure of formation has little to do with the pastoral care of the people.
The Holy Father, Pope Francis, told his pastors, “…be shepherds with the smell of sheep,” so that people can sense the priest is not just concerned with his own congregation, but is also a fisher of men.” A priest that is completely isolated from the people cannot smell like the people. A priest that is self-centered, power drunk and clerically minded can never smell like his sheep. What we need in Africa is a people-oriented priest, a priest of the people, by the people and for the people.
What does “spiritual fatherhood” mean in places where a person grows without a father figure? What formation is offered?
This is the most realistic and practical question as far as Africa is concerned. This question considers countries like Nigeria, where so many children have lost their fathers through such insurgencies as Boko Haram and herdsmen killings. If these orphans grow up without any father figure, the idea of spiritual father makes little or no sense. Worse still, they will find it difficult to relate with God as their Heavenly Father.
The way forward is for the Church to establish an orphanage home and Youth Rehabilitation centres in all dioceses in Africa, where such orphans can have access to practical pastoral care. A father figure can be provided for such homes as St. James declares, Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1: 27).
How do you communicate to young people that they are needed to build the Church’s future?
The African youths don’t need anybody to tell them that they are needed in the Church. In fact, there is vocation boom in places like Nigeria. Unemployment must have contributed to this reality. So many young people, who want to serve in the Church, are even rejected.
Instead of frustrating these young vocations, the Church in Africa should harness these vocations and send them to areas like the Western world and even Northern parts of Nigeria, where Pastors are needed. This was exactly what the Irish Church did, when they had their own vocation boom. A day is coming when the economy of Africa will improve. Then, the Church will look for vocation and will not find it! For peace, for Church growth, and for salvation of souls, the youths must be carried along!
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