Natalie Doherty – Parish Catechist, Kilnamanagh-Castleview Parish has just returned from Rome where she represented this Irish Bishops at the International Youth Forum. This is her account of that fantastic experience
11th International Youth Forum Rome, 18th-22nd June 2019
In February of this year, not long after we returned from World Youth Day in Panama, Tomas and I were selected to represent the Irish Bishops Conference at the 11th International Youth Forum in Rome.
We didn’t receive too many details about the trip at the time , but we knew it would centre heavily on the Synod on Youth held in October 2018 and the recent exhortation published by Pope Francis in April, Christus Vivt – Christ is Alive!
We began our reading of the document and, to our surprise, found ourselves thoroughly enjoying delving into what Pope Francis was saying. The many references and quotes to his Vigil address in Panama allowed us to connect deeper with something that would normally be slightly alien to us, especially on first reading.
In May of this year, we attended and led sessions at the youth gathering in St Paul’s, Arran Quay, to begin studying and exploring Christus Vivit together. It was a great opportunity to start conversations with peers on our thoughts on the document, but more importantly, to begin to plot the path of where to go from here. This involvement at local level gave us a great footing in discussions and planning when we were in Rome.
We left Dublin airport in the early hours on Tuesday, 18th June, and flew to Rome where volunteers from the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life were there to greet us and transport us to a Carmelite house where we would be staying for the following days. We got our rooms and tried to adjust to the large building, along with the Roman summer heat! The programme officially opened with registration and dinner on the Tuesday night and we were sent to bed early to be fresh-faced for the 3 long days that lay ahead for us.
The themes and topics for the 3 days were:
- Wednesday – The Synodal Journey and its Impact on Church at Local Level
- Thursday – Christus Vivit
- Friday – Youth in Action in a Synodal Church: our contribution
Essentially, we looked at how the church got to Christus Vivit and what to do with Christus Vivit into the future. This discussed and debated through many presentations by keys members of the Dicastery, especially those involved with the pre-Synod and Synod in October 2018.
Invited professors of scripture and fundamental theology gave various inputs, as well 15 invited National Youth Co-Ordinators from all over the world via open forums, assemblies and panels. We also had a 2-hour working group in our designated language group each day. I was a moderator of my group and got to lead the conversation with people from USA, Czech Republic, Korea, Macau, Solomon Islands, Dubai and Romania, to name just a few of the groups locations. It was fascinating to speak and learn from peers all over the world, to see how we each face similar problems and how to learn and move from our differences and ideas.
On Saturday, we went to St Peter’s Basilica where Cardinal Kevin Farrell celebrated Mass. Straight after we were taken to a room in the Vatican where we had an audience with Pope Francis and an opportunity for an individual meeting with the Pope. Even though we have the photos from it, it still seems like a dream!
We stayed an extra night in Rome which allowed us to visit the Irish College for Mass and lunch on Sunday. We had a quick walk around some of the main sights Rome has to offer before we made our way to the airport. The 3 days were extremely long and very intense, and it has taken a few days for us to begin to process what happened and what are the important steps we must take next for our church and the youth of our church.
When our flight landed back in Dublin on Sunday night, we learnt that just after we had taken off, a small-ish earthquake hit Rome and was felt throughout. The epicentre of the earthquake was very close to the Carmelite house we had been staying in for the days prior. Maybe something is beginning to stir thanks to the forum? After the days in Rome at the forum, one thing is certain: for the youth of our church, Christ Is Alive!
Natalie Doherty – Parish Catechist, Kilnamanagh-Castleview Parish