U.S. youth synod participant wants diocesan-level change

Jonathan Lewis Credit Daniel Ibanez CNA Jonathan Lewis. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

A young U.S. Catholic participating in the 2018 Synod of Bishops said he hopes the Vatican meeting is a starting point for implementing change within the local dioceses and for raising the importance of positive Catholic role models.

For whatever reason young people may leave the Church, "the need is for positive examples of the faith," Jonathan Lewis told CNA Oct. 5.

"I see the need for us to have in each of our parish communities – it can't just be one parish in each diocese, it has to be in every community – relationships of love, friendship, and mentorship to walk with young people at every step of faith."

Lewis, 32, is an auditor to the synod – one of 34 young adults appointed by Pope Francis to participate in a meeting of bishops from around the world, discussing young adults, the faith, and vocational discernment.

Lewis has worked for the Archdiocese of Washington for six years, first as the director of evangelization and young adult ministries and now as assistant secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns.

Prior to his work in D.C., Lewis worked in parish ministry, doing religious education, youth ministry, and young adult ministry in the dioceses of Wilmington and Kansas City, and the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

A native of Kansas, he studied at Catholic University of America and holds a master's degree in theology from the University of Notre Dame. He is married, and he and his wife are expecting their first child.

As an auditor for the Vatican's synod on young people, faith, and vocational discernment, Lewis is listening in on the general congregations, will give one four-minute speech called an intervention, and will join in the working groups of the latter part of the assembly.

Lewis said he sees the youth synod as an opportunity to "revive the Church by focusing on the young voices of committed Catholics," and by going out as missionaries to reach young people who do not practice the faith, but who often still have "a strong spiritual sense and desire to make a difference in our world."

About the many concerns people have voiced regarding the synod, among them that it will be a lot of show, but have little real-world impact, Lewis said there is no way "a month-long meeting or one document, can include each of the perspectives of young people worldwide."

However, he thinks the meeting, which he said has so far had a positive atmosphere inside the hall, "can certainly begin a discussion."

"Whatever the final document is, [I hope] it will be a beginning point for the Church to implement a priority of young people," he said.

Lewis explained that his intervention – the short speech he will offer during the meeting – will be focused on the need for strong mentorship-type relationships for young people.

Whatever you call it, whether discipleship mentorship, spiritual mentors, spiritual advisors, or spiritual direction, "today we need to cultivate relationships of spiritual friendship in the life of our parishes," he said.

In his experience, and he believes the experience of many Catholics, long-term commitment to the faith and to the Church is correlated to the number and quality of relationships with faith mentors one has had throughout their life, whether parents, a catechist, pastor, or teacher.

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