• 2018 CCAA

    The 2018 Catholic Community Annual Appeal has begun. This year’s themes are “We, though many, are one body in Christ”

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  • TOTUS TUUS 2018

    Parish registration for the Totus Tuus program is now open. Totus Tuus (Latin for Totally Yours) named after St. John

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  • Job Opportunity

    Executive Assistant, Office of the Bishop and Vicar General - The Diocese of Salina is seeking an experienced Executive Assistant.

    Read More
  • Cause for Canonization

    Before becoming bishop of our diocese, Bishop Weisenburger was part of the team that worked on the "Cause of Canonization"

    Read More

Shedding light on discussing sexuality with children, family

The Register

Manhattan — Childhood is often synonymous with innocence.  It can be easy for parents to look at their bright-eyed child(ren) and want to shelter and protect them in every way.  Even with a religious upbringing and vigilant efforts by parents, Father Kyle Berens says society and culture is highly sexualized. What can often be an unintentional first exposure to sexual images can lead a child down a dark path, he said.  “Pornography, unfortunately, is a very common problem,” Father Berens said. “We need to address it as a common problem.  “To act like nothing is happening is a disservice to countless souls who are suffering. To those souls who think they are the only one who are struggling with pornography use or addiction.”

In order to help educate parents and families about how to discuss sexuality, the Salina Diocese is hosting an event: “Let light shine out of darkness” — Empowering FAMILIES to overcome the darkness of an over sexualized culture.  The event is from 3-5 p.m. March 11 at St. Thomas More Church in Manhattan. It will include talks by Dave DiNuzzo, founder of Truemanhood.com, and Lori and Eric Doerneman, creators of The Parenting Dare.

Lori Doerneman, the mother of 8 in Wichita, said as a parent, she was doing everything she thought she should to raise Catholic children.  “I didn’t talk to Eric about pornography because ‘Why would he look at that?’ ” she said.  The line is one she hears over and over from mothers. They know pornography is out there, but think their child would never view pornographic images.  She had the same assumption, until she walked into her son, Eric’s, bedroom during high school.  “He couldn’t get out,” she said of her son’s pornography use. “I could see it was an addiction. He could not just step out of it.”

This led to much research and discussion on the best course for her son, who is now 24, to take. He struggled through a decade of porn addiction, and now joins his mother to talk to parents and families, but also high school and college youth about the dangers of pornography.

DiNuzzo, who lives in Beloit, is the father of four young children. He began the True Manhood ministry a decade ago, after expressing frustration to his wife about a lack of resources for Catholic fathers.  “My wife said ‘Stop complaining and do something about it,’ ” he said.  His approach to discussing sexuality is to use St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” as a basis.  “I will talk about human sexuality and how it looks, from the background of scripture and virtue,” he said. “I’ll be talking about the value of the human person and how God created us.”

The discussion is one appropriate for all ages, DiNuzzo said.  “I teach this stuff to kids every day,” he said. “The content will be age-appropriate.  “It’s appropriate to teach the Theology of the Body to a child or adult. There’s something age appropriate to talk about — how they value themselves. If they don’t know who they are and that distinction of male/female, they will never understand they were created for love and to love. They’ll have a skewed view of love in general.”

He said St. John Paul II said the opposite of love is not hate, but use.  “We have a culture of using each other and there is emptiness and despair,” DiNuzzo said.  An important aspect of discussion, especially with children, is the words chosen.  He and his wife, Cathrine, have four children, ranging from age five to 10 years old.  “We can teach little kids that you made a mistake or a bad decision, but that does not make you a bad person,” he said.

Pornography is a relevant topic for families. DiNuzzo said priests tell him the majority of confessions deal with lust relating to pornography.  “I believe pornography is the devil’s No. 1 tool,” he said. “We are so desensitized as a culture to pornography. It’s everywhere.”  As the mother of eight children, Lori Doerneman said it’s essential to have an open line of communication.   “We talk about pornography all the time,” she said. “Every week, I have an alarm set to sit own and talk with each child and ask them ‘Have you seen anything that makes you uncomfortable?’ ”


Priest’s perspective: Do not lose hope

The Register

About a year ago, Father Kyle Berens was at a conference with college students. One of the speakers, Father Sean Kilcawley, who works with Integrity Restored, urged the clergy in attendance to shed light on a topic often heard in the confessional, but rarely spoken about from the pulpit: pornography.  “Pornography is a physical and spiritual battle,” said Father Berens, the pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Junction City. “You can’t fight one with out the other or you will never win.”  For those struggling with pornography use or addiction, he said a good first step is to go to the sacrament of Reconciliation.  “Hopefully the priest can get them in contact with more help,” Father Berens said.

One spiritual aid in the battle against pornography is making some small sacrifice of food or other activities a person enjoys.  “You give up something to train your body and your will,” Father Berens said. “You learn to say no to something. You learn that you do not have to have what you want the moment you want it.”  Frequent confession is also helpful.  “I tell people it doesn’t matter if for a period of time you need to come in daily or weekly,” he said when dealing with a pornography addiction. “Sin is like cancer. The longer it sits on your soul, the weaker you become.”

The next step is to seek help. For some, this involves professional counseling. For others, it involves finding an accountability partner.  “Is there someone you trust that you can talk to about this outside of the confessional? That’s a good source of stopping pornography use,” Father Berens said. “With minors, I ask if they can talk to their parents. This is often the best thing for them to do.”

A common concern he hears from children is ‘Dad’s going to hate me’ or ‘Mom’s going to kill me.’ Fear of rejection or being shunned or shamed by family is common.  “I ask them ‘Will they really do that, or do you think they’ll be sad because you’re hurting?’ ” he said. “I offer to be present as part of the conversation because I am committed to their recovery and their healing.”  Another aspect of moving forward is to seek appropriate filters or software for electronic devices. 

With sexual images so prevalent in culture, it is difficult to avoid them. Father Berens said some parents are hesitant to talk about sex with children and teens.  “As Catholics, we’ve become so prudish and don’t want to talk about sex,” he said. “Kids are talking about sex and show each other things. If we act like nothing is happening, we’re feeding the naivete.”

Approaching a sexuality discussion should be done with prudence, and age appropriately, he quickly added. He often recommends the book “Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids” by Kristen A Jenson, MA, and Gail Poyner to help parents introduce the topic of pornography to grade school aged children.

Father Berens cautions parents that YouTube is a large source of first exposure to pornography for children.  “If they have electronics that are not monitored, there is no secret that the pornography industry is seeking out children,”  he said.  Often, innocent games or videos that look like popular children’s shows will begin innocently, but introduce nudity or inappropriate content. Likewise, some pornography sites have names similar to those children would type in the Internet, or search for. 


Man journeyed through pornography use, back to relationship with his wife and faith

The Register

When James* married his wife nearly three decades ago, he knew he would never seek a physical relationship with another woman.  Four years into the marriage, however, several circumstance collided and he found himself turning to pornography for gratification.  “I don’t put any blame on my wife,” he said. “I didn’t look at my wife’s situation in our early marriage affectionately. We had young children and my wife stayed at home.”  With young children, James said his wife was exhausted and the physical aspect of their relationship began to slip “so I looked for other places to satisfy myself.”

The rejection of marital affection cut deeply.  “When the rejection came, I took it personally,” he said. “I didn’t once think about looking outside my marriage with another woman,” but magazines and videos seemed like an easy solution … at the time.  And with a “boys will be boys” culture, it was easy to justify to himself.  “I heard the whispers saying ‘You deserve this,’ ” he said. “I wanted to feel good about it and would say ‘This is not cheating on my wife.’ ” 

Yet even as he was ensnared in the visual trap of pornography, he was still outwardly living his Catholic faith.  “The real part I had a problem with was going to Mass on Sunday and receiving Holy Communion,” he said. “I felt like such a traitor.  “I would not even think about going to Confession and confessing it at that time,” he added.

For nine years he struggled through the use of pornography. There weren’t many highs, but he can remember the lows vividly, including a time when his wife was out of town with their children. James remained home due to work commitments.  “I would go to the video store and rent DVDs,” he said and explained he would sometimes dub the movies.  On that particular weekend, he became sidetracked by other projects and inadvertently left the DVD in the family’s living room player.  “The TV was off and my son was three or four. He came downstairs and I was in a room and I hear ‘Dad, there’s something really gross on TV,’ ” James said. “I dropped what I was doing, I ran over and shut the TV off right away.  “It makes me shake when I think about it. My son was so young, he doesn’t remember it, thank God, but still. It was a horrible, horrible thing. As a father, I let that evil come into my home.”

The use of pornography was something that continued until he began leading weekend retreats for men. On one of those weekends, a fellow retreat staff member stood in front of the group of more than 60 men and gave a personal testimony about his pornography addiction.  “When I heard that, I thought to myself  ‘I gotta do this. I cannot ride the fence on this,’ ” James said. “We got into our small groups. I started talking about it and the tears flowed. It was a moment of reckoning. I promised my Lord I would work on this.”  Yet acknowledging the problem was only the first step of a slow process. He began with the sacrament of Reconciliation.  “That was one of the first steps,” James said. “It took me awhile to be able to talk to my wife about what I was doing. Then I went to my wife and told her everything.”  As he worked to free himself from the chains of pornography, however, the temptation became more intense.


CCAA in pew solicitation begins

By The Register

Would you use the gifts you received from the Lord to serve one another? Do you realize you are united with others across the diocese into one body in Christ?  The 2018 Catholic Community Annual Appeal (CCAA) is an opportunity to do just that. The gifts given through the 2018 CCAA fund the ministries and programs that serve parishes and individuals across the Salina Diocese. These include youth and adult education and formation as well as seminarian and clergy education and support. 

The Salina Diocese serves more than 44,000 Catholics across 26,685 miles. The diocese spreads east to west from Manhattan to the Colorado border, and north to south from the Nebraska border to just south of I-70. It includes small rural parishes and larger urban parishes. It serves young Catholics to more mature Catholics, leading all to a closer connection with Christ. Everyone in the Diocese is a part of the body of Christ, needing each other and sharing in the generosity of God. Everyone is called to be generous. 

On the weekend of March 3-4 there will be an in-pew solicitation for the CCAA to give people who have not had an opportunity to make a gift the chance to do so. Pledge cards and envelopes will be available in all parishes for those who need them. 

All registered parishioners should have received a packet with a letter in early February from diocesan administrator Father Frank Coady asking for their prayerful consideration and support of this important appeal. Those who did not receive a packet and would like one can call the Office of Development at (785) 827-8746, x 42. Gifts can be given online at https://salinadio.solutiosoftware.com/development/online-giving

At the beginning of the appeal, Father Coady shared an audio message at all Masses. The message in English and Spanish is available on the diocesan website, http://salinadiocese.org.  Everyone across the diocese is encouraged to make a gift. Catholic teachings suggest tithing 10 percent of a family’s income – 5 percent to the parish, 4 percent to other charities, and 1 percent to the diocese. The annual appeal provides an opportunity for all to evaluate their charitable giving and to share their financial gifts with the Salina Diocese.

The pledge card gives the option to give once, quarterly or monthly over 10 months, starting in March and ending in December. Pledging over time allows the donor to spread their gift over multiple months, making a larger gift more comfortable. It is asked that all pledges be paid by the end of the year. 

Last year 20 percent of households in the Salina Diocese gave to the annual appeal. Although this is an acceptable average, it is hoped that this year even more people will make a gift to “serve one another” through the 2018 CCAA.  Charitable giving is a reflection of God’s gifts to us. Giving back to God should reflect God’s generosity to us. Some are blessed more and can give more; some can give less. Whatever the gift amount it is appreciated and needed.

As Father Coady said in his letter, “Everyone has received from the generosity of God and these opportunities to give back make us who we are: the body of Christ joined together as one.”

2018 Catholic Community Annual Appeal

The 2018 Catholic Community Annual Appeal has begun. This year’s themes are “We, though many, are one body in Christ” and “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another.”

Father Frank Coady, Diocesan Administrator, sent a letter to every registered parishioner asking them to prayerfully consider a gift to support the ministries and programs that impact parishes across the Salina Diocese. As Father Coady said in the letter “To follow Christ is to have more concern for others than for ourselves. In this, we experience the joy and deep satisfaction that comes from being a servant. To give is to receive.”

He further explains, “the CCAA is your yearly opportunity to put this giving attitude into practice, to experience salvation by serving the ministries, parishes and individuals throughout the diocese…We have all received from the generosity of God and these opportunities to give back make us who we are: the body of Christ joined together as one.”

The Salina Diocese serves more than 44,000 Catholics across 26,685 miles. The diocese spreads east to west from Manhattan to Atwood, and north to south from the Nebraska border to just south of I-70. It includes small rural parishes and larger urban parishes. It serves young Catholics to more mature Catholics, leading all to a closer connection with Christ. The themes this year reflect the diversity of the diocese and calls each of us to be generous.

Click here for the message in English.

Right click here to download

Click here for the message in Spanish.

Right click here to download

CCAA gifts provide the funding for ministries and programs across the diocese that respond to a broad range of needs and interests, and consequently, bind us together as a community of faith. The $1.1 million goal will support four primary categories of ministries and programs in the diocese: Seminarian and clergy education; education and formation for youth and adults; diocesan administration; and national church collections.

Seminarian and clergy education will receive 44 percent of the gifts. These funds provide health care for our clergy, priests’ retirement, and continuing education for active as well as retired priests. In addition, these gifts support the education of seminarians. The diocese has 53 active priests and 20 retired priests, along with 10 seminarians. Priests bring God’s presence into each parish. Seminarians represent the future of our diocese. This is an important need within the Salina Diocese.


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Catholic News Headlines

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Jeenah Moon, ReutersBy NEW YORK (CNS) -- The once "big tent" of the Democratic Party "now seems a pup tent" as a party that Catholics once embraced has abandoned so many issues Catholics cherish, such as the sanctity of human life and religious education, said New York's cardinal. He pointed to the party favoring a radical abortion agenda over protecting the human rights of unborn children and all-out efforts to block education credits to help poor and low-income families access Catholic and other nonpublic schools. "The Democrats Abandon Catholics" reads the headline on a March 23 op-ed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan in The Wall Street Journal. "I'm a pastor, not a politician, and I've certainly had spats and disappointments with politicians from both of America's leading parties," he wrote. "But it saddens me, and weakens the democracy millions of Americans cherish, when the party that once embraced Catholics now slams the door on us. "The dignity and sanctity of human life, the importance of Catholic schools, the defense of a baby's civil rights" are "widely embraced by Catholics. This often led Catholics to become loyal Democrats. I remember my own grandmother whispering to me, 'We Catholics don't trust those Republicans.'" "A cause of sadness to him," Cardinal Dolan said, is that "the needs of poor and middle-class children in Catholic schools, and the right to life of the baby in the womb have largely been rejected by the party of our youth." A couple of recent events, the cardinal said, brought to mind "two towering people who had a tremendous effect on the Archdiocese of New York and the U.S. more broadly" -- Archbishop John Hughes, the first archbishop of New York (1842-1864) and the funeral of "a great African-American woman, Dolores Grier," a convert to Catholicism, who became vice chancellor of the archdiocese. "Their witness is worth remembering, especially in this political moment," he said. For the cardinal, the March 17 feast day of St. Patrick -- patron saint of St. Patrick's Cathedral and the archdiocese -- recalled Archbishop Hughes' "dramatic reverence for the dignity of Irish immigrants." "Thousands arrived daily in New York -- penniless, starving and sometimes ill -- only to be met with hostility, bigotry and injustice." The archbishop, himself an immigrant, "defended their dignity." "Because the schools at the time were hostile to these immigrants, he initiated Catholic schools" to give the children a good education "sensitive to their religion" and to prepare them to be "responsible, patriotic citizens." The mission of today's Catholic schools remains "unchanged." Grier, the first woman to be archdiocesan vice chancellor, was "passionate about civil rights, especially the right of babies in the womb." She always noted "abortuaries," he said," were clustered in poor black and brown neighborhoods." The values espoused by these two prominent Catholic figures were -- and still are -- widely embraced by Catholics, Cardinal Dolan wrote. He also noted that last year "an esteemed pro-life Democrat in Illinois, Rep. Dan Lipinski, effectively was blacklisted by his own party" when Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez "insisted that pro-life candidates have no place in the modern Democratic Party." He said that in the state of New York in particular, these issues important to Catholics have been hit hard as "in recent years, some Democrats in the New York state Assembly repeatedly blocked education tax credit legislation, which would have helped middle-class and low-income families make the choice to select Catholic or other nonpublic schools for their children." "Opposing the bill reduces the ability of fine Catholic schools across the state to continue their mission of serving the poor, many of them immigrants," Cardinal Dolan said. In closing, Cardinal Dolan said that it was difficult to have to write about the Democratic Party abandoning Catholics: "To Archbishop Hughes, Dolores Grier and Grandma Dolan, I'm sorry to have to write this. But not as sad as you are to know it is true." - - -Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Jo TuckmanBy Jo TuckmanSANTA TECLA, El Salvador (CNS) -- Leonor Chacon remembers every emotion she felt March 24, 1980, as if it were yesterday. It started, she recalls, with the happiness that always accompanied the expectation that Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador would be coming to eat with her family in the small city of Santa Tecla, just west of the Salvadoran capital. Later there was her disappointment when her husband returned home with the news that the archbishop could not make it because he was committed to celebrating Mass that evening in the chapel of the cancer hospital next to where he lived. And then there was the call informing her he had been shot while celebrating that Mass. "I ran to the room where my husband was and we cried together," recalled Chacon, now 80. "It was a very great pain." Today, El Salvador eagerly awaits the canonization of the archbishop who began his pastoral life as a conservative priest known for his charity work and spent his final years accused of being a communist agitator for defiantly speaking out against the death squads and political repression. But while Chacon celebrates the attention focused on Blessed Romero's message of peace, for her he was also a dear friend, who treated her little family restaurant and home behind it as a refuge from the horror. Taking a break from making pastries she sells in glass jars on the counter of the restaurant, Chacon let the anecdotes flow. She recalled the way he would ask to be told jokes, as well as his belly laughs from the sofa when the family would clown about. She smiled fondly at the memory of the time he spent hours sitting with her father, watching telenovelas, and at his voracious appetite for her refried beans. "He used to say that he came here to disconnect and the rest," she said. "He would say it was like going to the house of Martha and Mary of Bethany." Chacon first met Blessed Romero on her wedding day in 1963. Her fiance, Raul, had told her about the priest who had taken him in to live in his parish in the nearby town of San Miguel when he became an orphan at the age of 7, so she wrote to ask him if he would marry them. Blessed Romero married them and stayed for the small banquet the family threw for the newlyweds, then he whisked them off to a hotel for their wedding night, paying the bill himself. From then on, Blessed Romero began regularly dropping by for lunch on his way to and from the capital, developing individual relationships with many of the family members, including her sister, Elvira, who became his secretary. Chacon said he preferred not to talk about politics when he visited and would brush off concerns for his safety, as he did the last time she saw him, March 8, 1980. He dismissed the idea that he should be traveling with someone, saying he did not want to put anybody else in danger. Like many in El Salvador, Chacon said the archbishop wrote his own death sentence in the homily he gave the day before his murder, in which he ordered soldiers to "stop the repression." "He knew they were going to kill him, but he wasn't afraid," she said. "He was smiling a lot the last time he came here." Chacon told of the children and old people crying as thousands filed passed his coffin as it lay for five days in the San Salvador basilica. She also described how that grief then turned to fear on the very day of his funeral in the cathedral, when snipers fired on the mourners. Dozens died, many in the stampede to escape. Listening to the funeral on the radio in her home, she said the transmission cut out soon after the gunfire and screams began. A few months later, rumors circulated that anybody found with photographs of the archbishop would be killed. Her husband, who died in 2002, wanted to burn their photos, but she refused. Instead she wrapped them in cloth and put them at the bottom of a chest. Now she has hung those same photographs proudly on the wall in a kind of shrine she proudly shows to anybody who visits. "He used to say that there are more people who love me than hate me, and it's still true" she said. "The people who come here get all emotional."- - -Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/New Albany DeaneryBy John ShaughnessyINDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- While talking about The Man Tour, Conventual Franciscan Brother Andrew Hennessy shares his purpose for creating an evening that combines throwing axes, drinking beer, eating pizza, smoking cigars and participating in eucharistic adoration. The 28-year-old friar, who's involved in young adult ministry, wants The Man Tour to deepen the bonds of young men who already share the Catholic faith while also connecting with young men who don't have a home in the church. "My main hope is to strengthen the community for guys who are in the core group and to reach out to guys who are on the periphery of the church -- to feel some spiritual solidarity together, to make connections across parishes, to build up the church," Brother Andrew told The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. "Hopefully, it will be a lot of fun, a lot of good energy, and a chance to come together before the Lord," he said, in advance of what he calls a "night of recreation and holiness."The Man Tour, which costs $30, is open to 30 young men. On March 10 participants gathered at the Mount St. Francis Center of Spirituality in Mount St. Francis, in the archdiocese's New Albany Deanery. It's where Brother Andrew lives with his fellow Conventual Franciscans. From the center, the group was chauffeured in two deanery vans to the Flying Axes establishment across the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky, where they could throw axes, eat pizza and drink beer. Brother Andrew explained that Flying Axes is set up like a bowling alley, "but you're throwing axes at plywood. It's a really cool concept, a macho thing to do." The second part of The Man Tour involved a return to Mount St. Francis for evening eucharistic adoration followed by "cigar smoking and conversation." Brother Andrew said that his inspiration for The Man Tour partly came from "my imagination running away from me." "I work with a lot of young adults here. Being guys, we were just throwing out ideas of hanging out as guys, doing guy things," he told The Criterion. "We figured we'd get guys from across the deanery, have some fun together, pray together and build the community of the Church together." That element of building community is at the heart of The Man Tour, Brother Andrew insists. "Someone told me that the two things that bring guys together are work and play. As Catholics, I think we also add 'pray' to it -- even though it's not easy to get people to pray together," he said. "It's natural to come together to have fun, and it's natural to come together to worship. "The thing in my head is the Christian community. It's a community centered around Christ. We're having fun, but we're centering it all around Christ." Combining faith and fun is a way of trying to connect with young adults who aren't closely tied to the church, said Philip Wiese, director of youth ministries for the New Albany Deanery, who helped coordinate The Man Tour with Brother Andrew. It's an age group -- from 18 to 35 -- that's searching for something deeper, that's at a defining time in their lives, said Wiese, who is 29, married and the father of four children, with another child arriving soon. "It's such an important time," he explained. "When you become young adults, the questions in life become more clear: Am I going to be married or single? Is the Lord calling me to be a priest or a religious sister? Where am I working, and is the place good for me spiritually or bringing me down? What kind of community am I in, and is it building me up? "We're made for community as human beings. That's why it's so important for young adults to have authentic community -- to be built up as a man and as a son of God, to be built up as a woman and as a daughter of God," he added. When Brother Andrew shared his idea for The Man Tour, Wiese embraced it. He also wants to explore ways to draw young women closer to God and the church through some combination of faith and fun. "Pope Francis talks about going to the peripheries," Wiese said. "We need opportunities for people to come into the church and to grow in their relationship with Christ and the church without being overwhelmed-to involve them in something that strikes them as interesting." He called The Man Tour one step in that process. "We want to bring men together to see where they are in their walk in life, and where they are in their relationship with Christ and the Church so we can better prescribe a men's ministry," Wiese said, adding, "I'm interested to see where this will go, where the Lord will lead us. Prayer and adoration will always be involved." - - - Shaughnessy is assistant editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.- - -Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Robert DuncanBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Young people want trusted guides as they explore their faith and their vocation, said five young adults from the United States attending the Vatican's pre-synod meeting. The U.S. delegates to the Vatican meeting March 19-25 also said the 305 young adults from around the world want to see young people consulted more often in their parishes and dioceses. And, one said, in conversations with other delegates, he discovered that Catholics in other countries are not experiencing the sharp divisions that U.S. Catholics are. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent three delegates to the meeting: De La Salle Christian Brother Javier Hansen, who teaches at Cathedral High School in El Paso, Texas; Nick Lopez, director of campus ministry for the University of Dallas; and Katie Prejean-McGrady, a wife, new mother, youth minister, and a popular speaker from the Diocese of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Chris Russo, a 23-year-old working in Boston, represented the Ruthenian Catholic Church. And Nicole Perone, director of adult faith formation for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, represented Voices of Faith, an international group that highlights the contributions of women in the church. A topic that came up consistently at the meeting, Prejean-McGrady said, was young people's desire "to find companions on the journey, to look for people to walk with them." "When you have personal relationships with people who are vibrantly living their faith, then you yourself are inspired to live your faith," she said. And the relationship also provides a trusted source for dealing with concerns about topics such as sexuality or church teachings that may be difficult to understand, she said. "'Here's a book; believe it' -- that doesn't work with young people anymore, and we know that because they are consuming far too much media to where they are not going to read that book," Prejean-McGrady said. "You have to talk with them, you have to walk with them, you have to love them and really spend time with them." Lopez noted that Pope Francis opened the meeting March 19 by telling the delegates that the church wanted to hear their opinions and their questions, even those they thought might make church leaders uncomfortable. In ministry to young people, they need to know they can ask those questions and that "we are going to discuss them. Nothing is too radical. Nothing is out of left field," he said. If a young person is struggling with something, that is all the reason needed to discuss it. "Human issues are church issues, and we aren't going to get anywhere unless we begin the conversation," Lopez said. "Young people seem to live in this age of anxiety, meaning that in a world of seemingly endless possibilities, they are almost paralyzed because they have all of these different options and they want to go forth, but they want to make the right decision, and they want to do so without the fear of failure," Russo said. "My hope is that just as Christ walked with the apostles, the church will walk with young people as they are discerning all these different thoughts and considering different paths." The accompaniment discussion was key for Perone, who counts herself blessed to have had the guidance and friendship of "a number of people, but especially women, really bright, faithful women who love the church and have dedicated their lives in service to the church." The preparatory document for the synod, which will be held in October, talks about "role models, guides and mentors," she said, but a lot of young people do not know how to ask for such accompaniment, and many people do not realize they can offer that to young people. Faith mentors to young people, she said, first must be "faithful Christians, people who are living their lives faithfully and are committed to walking the journey of holiness." And, she said, "it has to be a person who is not afraid to acknowledge they are human and make mistakes. The words 'authenticity' and 'vulnerability' have come up constantly this week. Those are the two characteristics young people crave, desire and are drawn to" because they make a mentor both trustworthy and approachable. The young adults said their experience in Rome -- meeting with the pope and formulating suggestions for the bishops who will meet in October -- is an amazing, global example of what young people would like to see at least a hint of in their parishes and dioceses. "All young people within the Catholic Church want to be heard," Russo said. "They want to have their thoughts expressed as they journey closer to Christ." In formulating suggestions for the bishops, Lopez said, "one of the main ones was having things like this pre-synod gathering more common in the parishes," for example, by including young adults on the parish or diocesan council or creating parish or diocesan advisory committees of youth and young adults "and having those councils meet often." "In the U.S., we're blessed to have very passionate young adults who take the initiative to form independent Catholic groups for young adults to meet, outside the church and outside the parish," he said, "but we need to integrate them into parish life to show we are not a separate group, that we're actually part of that community." The delegates spent most of the week in small groups, working on their suggestions for the synod. Brother Hansen said he told his group that "one of the characteristics of the American church is this extreme polarization between liberal and conservative Catholics, and I was surprised that one thing I found was that that is more or less uniquely American." The delegates from the wealthy Western nations would talk about "church teaching on controversial issues" or the need to be present on the digital platforms where young people spend their time, but "we have to move beyond these First World problems," Perone said, adding that she was touched by the witness of delegates coming from places where Christians experience violent persecution. In the United States, she said, "it's easy for us to get bogged down in this division and discord and soundbites -- all these things that really drive us apart, and we don't quite focus on the unity we really should be focusing on: the beauty of our faith, the joy of the Gospel, the beauty of the truth that unites us and not the nuances that divide us."- - -Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. 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  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Robert DuncanBy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- If the Catholic Church at every level -- and governments, too -- would listen to young people and give them a voice in decision-making, they could unleash great potential, said two African young adults. Vincent Paul Nneji of Nigeria and Tinyiko Joan Ndaba from South Africa were among the 305 young adults participating in a weeklong meeting designed to allow young people -- involved Catholics and others -- to provide input for Pope Francis and the world's bishops, who will meet in a synod in October to discuss "young people, faith and vocational discernment." Nneji told Catholic News Service March 20 that the preparatory meeting offers a chance for young Catholics in his country who are considered "a minority voice" to speak out on important issues. "When the pope sent a letter on this meeting, we said, 'Finally, the church in Rome has decided to give us a platform; they decided to give us a listening ear,'" Nneji said. While struggles with "social injustice, bad leadership, poverty and financial insecurity" are just some of the difficulties facing young Nigerian men and women today, Nneji said, "the major challenge is trying to be a Catholic youth and a light for other people, even in the midst of the conflicts we face in Nigeria." African youths today, Nneji added, have "so many things in our hearts we want to express and want to say," yet they often feel disregarded. Too many, he said, then resort to violence in the hopes of provoking change. "Sometimes when you're not allowed to say these things, it's like a volcano and when it gets so big," it blows up, he said. Nneji told CNS he hopes that, through the pre-synod meeting, the whole world "may see a reason for allowing youths to be heard, for allowing (young people) to be part of decision-making, even in society." "If we were allowed to express ourselves, we would have less violence, we would have more peace in our society and in our world," he said. "And of course, in various parts of the world where youths are being exploited and used for various forms of violence, those things will reduce, those things will stop because this time around they will say, 'We have a platform where we can talk, so we don't need to carry guns, we don't need to carry machetes. We just have to go and dialogue,'" Nneji said. Ndaba told CNS, "I hope that young people can be given a chance to change society because I think we have so much potential." "But we can't do it on our own," she said. "We need support from the people who have been there before and who can give us direction where to go." Ndaba was chosen to attend the meeting by Talitha Kum, the anti-human trafficking organization where she works. The organization is an international network of consecrated men and women in 75 countries promoting initiatives against human trafficking. While the Catholic Church in South Africa is doing its best to prevent future cases of human trafficking, she said, the church also must warn young people of the harm inflicted by those who exploit women, especially when "the demand is coming from Catholics." During the opening session of the pre-synod meeting March 19, Blessing Okodion, a young Nigerian rescued from forced prostitution in Italy, asked Pope Francis what could be done to increase awareness of human trafficking. Pope Francis noted that since the vast majority of Italians are Catholic, the majority of men who use prostitutes in Italy also must be. "One who goes to a prostitute is a criminal, a criminal," Pope Francis told the young people. "This is not making love. This is torturing a woman. Let's not confuse the terms. This is criminal." As one of many men and women working a to prevent human trafficking in Africa, Ndaba told CNS she was happy to hear the pope speaking frankly about a "hidden crime" that is "not talked about so much." Human trafficking is an important topic for a youth gathering, she said, "because most victims of human trafficking are young people who are trying to find better jobs, a better life so they migrate and traffickers take advantage of that, most especially with young people. - - - Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.- - -Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.