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Notre Dame students witness to the Synod on Youth



The Center for Ethics and Culture sponsors fall break trip to Rome

During the week of fall break, the Center for Ethics and Culture took a group of Sorin Fellows to Rome to witness the Synod on Youth currently taking place at the Vatican–and as Student Program Manager, Pete Hlabse put it, “to witness to the Synod.”

Hlabse told the Rover that he viewed the trip as a pilgrimage and an opportunity for prayer, “to renew our own fidelity and commitment to the life and sanctity of the Church.” Recent discussion about ‘cleansing the temple of the institutional Church’ led him to see the pilgrimage as “an opportunity to cleanse our own temples, to recommit ourselves in our lives of faith, such that we might serve as a beacon of the Church’s truth, beauty, and goodness.”

The Rome trip schedule was tightly packed to “structure an experience that touched on as much of the life of the Church as possible,” Hlabse said. This included elements of liturgy, service to the poor, art, architecture, and actual engagement with the Synod fathers. “Within the week’s time,” said Hlabse, “we wanted students to have an opportunity to pray with one another, encounter other young persons present at the Synod, accompany the poor in Rome through the apostolate of religious communities, and contribute to the discussions of the Synod through engagement with several of Synod delegates.”

The full schedule of the week was as follows:

Sunday:  Arrivals to Rome & Mass and Discussion in the Apostolic Palace with Papal Theologian, Fr. Wojciech Giertych, OP

Monday: Mass at San Clemente with Fr. Thomas Joseph White, OP and Tour with Art Historian, Liz Lev.

Tuesday: Day of Service with the Missionaries of Charity and Mass at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Wednesday: Tours of St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul Outside the Walls

Thursday: Tour of the Vatican Museums and Mass in the Apartment of St. Ignatius Loyola

Friday: Mass in the Crypt of St. Peter’s & Scavi Tours

On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, the Center hosted receptions at which Sorin Fellows had the opportunity to engage with Synod fathers, various clergy members, and other Catholic leaders to share their thoughts and hopes for the Church. Students Keenan White, Katherine Smith, and Jack Ferguson offered speeches at each of the three receptions on the transcendental virtues, Beauty, Goodness, and Truth.

The Sorin Fellows succeeded in catching the attention of Synod fathers and of the Church broadly. A portion of junior Jack Ferguson’s speech on Truth was read before the Synod, and senior, Keenan White was interviewed by EWTN nightly news. Other students were interviewed for Catholic podcasts and other news outlets.

The CEC wanted the students to pray together in a context that deepened their faith and love of the Lord. “The witness of vibrant, enthusiastic young persons of faith is itself a great gift to the life of the Church – and in the midst of considerations of how to engage (or re-engage) ‘the nones’ – faithful young people can be an overlooked asset that the Church has at Her disposal, especially with the aim of engaging disengaged young persons,” Hlbase said.

On a personal level, he added, “Our pilgrims’ conversations with bishops and church leaders also reminded me that it often takes a personal encounter to remind Church leaders of the living witnesses of a young vibrant faith in the world today. At the end of the day, though dialogue and strategic initiatives are part of renewing the Church’s engagement with young people (and indeed, the world!), it is primarily through a rediscovery of the way in which prayer — both individual and communal– reorients us toward the Lord that will truly allow for positive engagement of young people and authentic discernment of our vocations.”

The model and image of a group of young people in prayer stands as a powerful image for the Church and the world, Hlabse told the Rover. “It demonstrates that young persons are in dialogue not just with one another about their experiences, but that they are dialogue with the Lord — that they are listening to the Lord speak to them in private prayer, through the Sacraments, and through the Church.  That in itself is a powerful witness in a world that doesn’t value silence, and certainly doesn’t value prayer or the Sacraments, let alone acknowledge the possibility of the transcendent. The image of a our pilgrims in prayer is an image that will remain with me for a long time.”  

Bea Cuasay is a sophomore studying Philosophy. She once met Monsignor Guido Marini, the Papal Master of Ceremonies, on the Borgo Pio. If you too are a Guido Marini Fan, or love the Catholic moral and intellectual traditions, she encourages you to register for the CEC Fall Conference, “Higher Powers” taking place next week. You can contact her at bcuasay@nd.edu.

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