When it comes to youth and young adult ministry, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland is in step with what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is doing.
On July 22, the USCCB Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, which is chaired by Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Perez, in collaboration with the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, convened “Journeying Together,” a yearlong intercultural process with young adults and ministry leaders. The initiative is meant to explore the Church’s engagement with young people of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds and to mobilize the faithful on issue and concerns related to culture and race in the U.S.
The foundation here was laid by Archbishop Perez, who led the Cleveland Diocese from September 2017 until his February installation as Philadelphia archbishop. Engaging young Catholics was – and remains -- a priority for him. In fact, he established a think tank here to advise him on how to best continue that process.
In addition, in November 2019, Archbishop Perez began a three-year term as episcopal liaison of NFCYM, travelling to Indianapolis, Indiana to join more than 20,000 high school-age students at the national NFCYM conference. In his role as episcopal liaison, he serves as an advocate for NFCYM and for youth ministry with the USCCB.
Bishop Edward Malesic, who will be installed Sept. 14 as the 12th bishop of Cleveland, also has a history of engaging with young Catholics in his current position as bishop of Greensburg, Pennsylvania and before that, as a priest in the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
The Journeying Together initiative is based on Pope Francis’ call for encounter and dialogue in his 2019 apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit. Due to health concerns with the novel coronavirus, the initiative primarily will take place online from this month through May 2021, with an anticipated live gathering next summer -- pending health and safety directives.
The process will feature intracultural and intercultural digital gatherings and conversations with young adult delegates and key ministry leaders from different cultural communities including African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, European Americans, Hispanic/Latinos and Native Americans, as well as immigrant groups, migrants and refugees. The conversations will be facilitated by young adults in response to Pope Francis’ encouragement of young people to be protagonists in the Church’s mission of evangelization. The initiative, led by the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, will include collaboration with the USCCB’s Secretariat for Catholic Education; Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis; and Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.
“This dialogue comes at an incredibly important time in our nation’s history where we find ourselves engaged in a serious conversation about race and racism, with calls for meaningful and lasting social reform, a movement led in large part by young people across the country and around the world,” Archbishop Perez said. “The COVID-19 pandemic also has affected communities of color most significantly. Over the course of the next year, it is my hope that we can have honest conversations on these and other issues impacting young people and on how we can move ahead on the important questions of race, culture, and community. We have been very intentional about making sure every cultural family has their voice represented and a seat at the table as we journey together. The bishops are looking forward to learning from the young people and those who accompany them,” he added.
The delegates within the “Journeying Together” process -- including bishops, young adults and local ministry leaders -- will seek to involve their peers in the dialogue and mobilization aspects of this yearlong experience. The goal of the initiative is to help the Church better engage and respond to the realities facing young people of all cultural backgrounds.
For more information about the process, visit usccb.org/journey2020.