WelCom February 2017:
Cardinal John Dew
For a long time I was often asked the question, ‘Are you on Facebook?’ I used to answer by telling people I was and had been for quite some years, but that I never actually used it. However, a couple of years ago I was convinced by others I should be making the most of Facebook to communicate, especially with young people. I began to post regularly under the name of Cardinal John Dew – posts about prayer, or something Pope Francis has said, or a function I’d been too, or something that inspired and motivated me. Since then I’ve often been surprised at the number of responses, comments, likes and shares. This has made me realise people are looking for something inspirational; something that motivates them to prayer or action. I also believe this platform gives people the opportunity to become aware of issues and events within the wider Church community and not just their own parish.
On 18 January, I posted a comment about the LifeTeen Summer Camp ‘Unfinished’, which took place at Forest Lakes (Otaki) in mid-January. I basically said on the Facebook post how wonderful the camp was, how 220 teenagers were participating prayerfully, reverently, asking intelligent questions and engaging wholeheartedly in the camp process, while 56 young adults led them in these days of prayer and reflection, fun and activities. Some of the comments in reply on the Facebook page were:
‘Awesome…..that’s just awesome.’
‘Young people ARE amazing.’
‘Our young people can teach us all.’
‘Wonderful experience! God’s presence is truly in our young people who love the Lord.’
Our young people are a great gift to our Church. Pope Francis wants them to know this too. On 13 January of this year, a few days before LifeTeen began, the Holy Father wrote a ‘Letter to Young People’. He told them he wanted them to be the centre of attention because they are in his heart. He also asked them to prepare for a Synod of Bishops that will take place in October 2018. He reminded them how they can undertake a journey of discernment to discover God’s plan in their lives. ‘Even when the journey is uncertain and you fall, God, rich in mercy,’ he said, ‘will extend his hand to pick you up.’
He also recalled how in Poland at the World Youth Day last July, he asked them several times: ‘Can we change things?’ And they shouted: ‘Yes!’. That shout, he said, ‘came from your young and youthful hearts, which do not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a “throw-away culture” nor give in to the globalisation of indifference.’
Pope Francis stressed to them, ‘The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls.’
That is what we want our young people here to do too as we prepare for our own Archdiocesan Synod ‘Go you are sent!’, which is to take place in September this year, but which will also involve people all over the Archdiocese in the months leading up to September. Those people who commented on my Facebook page are right, our young people are amazing! They can teach us and do teach us.
Pope Francis said in his letter that young people are in his heart. Can we all say that? Do we make every effort to involve them, invite them, encourage them, affirm them, reach out to them and show by our words and actions that we want and need them to be fully involved in our Church today?
Cardinal John’s Facebook Post
18 January 2017: For the last two days I have been at the Lifeteen Summer Camp at Forest Lakes Otaki, with 56 young leaders and 220 camp participants. The camp will continue for another five days. The highlight for me yesterday was the Opening Mass – there had been a lot of noise, Mass began and there was total quiet, reverence, and total participation. In our parishes we ask for ‘full active participation in the Mass’ – we had that at LifeTeen yesterday. Mass was followed by ‘Messy Games’ – and again much screaming and shrieking, but then total silence as Eucharistic Adoration followed out in the open air and as darkness came. Prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and the engagement by all present was powerful and stirred up great gratitude in me for the involvement of our young people.