Yadira Vieyra is a Cristo Rey alum from the class of 2007. Yadira was chosen as one of five people to represent the United States at the Synod on Young People in Rome this October. We hope you will join us in sending Yadira our prayers as she participates in important conversations addressing relevant issues in lives of today’s youth. Yadira will be sharing updates with the Cristo Rey community here on this blog.
“Hope challenges us, moves us and shatters that conformism which says, ‘it’s always been done like this’. Hope asks us to get up and look directly into the eyes of young people and see their situations. This same hope asks us to make efforts to reverse situations of uncertainty, exclusion and violence, to which our young people are exposed. Having been formed by so many choices taken in the past, young people now call us to join them in facing the present with greater commitment and to work against whatever prevents their lives from growing in a dignified way. They ask us and demand of us a creative dedication, a dynamism which is intelligent, enthusiastic and full of hope. They ask us not to leave them alone in the hands of so many pedlars of death who oppress their lives and darken their vision.” With that message of hope and joy, Pope Francis celebrated the opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops last Wednesday. He reminded all of us of the young Jesus and called for all synodal Bishops to remember that they, too, were once young as they listen to our youth’s request for a church that listens and ministers to the needs they face today. After mass, Pope Francis greeted the crowd seated at the top of the steps to Saint Peter’s Basilica. I was blessed the with the opportunity to hold his soft hand tightly until I was forced to let go. It was brief but beautiful.
Later that afternoon, we had our first synodal meeting. The pope surprised every participating member with an individual handshake as we entered the hall. After nervously awaiting my turn, I shook Pope Francis’ hand and said, “Santo Padre, Gracias por traerme hasta Roma. Estoy lista para servir con usted”. Having Pope Francis smile and look me in the eyes as he greeted me is one of my favorite memories of the synod thus far.
Our synodal meetings have centered on bishops and auditors sharing 4-minute argumentative discourses before the synodal members, addressing a particular topic in the Instrumentum Laboris: Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment - the document that was written after a group of youth convened in March during the Pre-synod. The Instrumentum Laboris is a comprehensive document that addresses aspects that impact our youth today: family, technology, peer relationships, globalization, education, social engagement, etc. The presentations have been riveting, emotional, and some, fairly controversial. Cristo Rey has been present during some of our discussions.
We also have a coffee break in the morning, during which Pope Francis socializes with us (yes, the Pope socializes).
During one exchange with the Pope, he encouraged some young auditors to applaud loudly for the speeches we feel conveyed the reality of our youth and listen respectfully to those that didn’t quite speak to that reality. Also, like a true millennial, I took a selfie with the Pope.
We have also meet in our small groups. In my case, I am meeting with a mixed group of English-speaking bishops and archbishops from various parts of the world. We have discussed the Instrumentum Laboris more in depth while also voting on amendments to the document that will influence what the Pope writes in his Apostolic Exhortation to our youth. Cardinal Blase Cupich is the moderator in my group and has made it a point to make sure the young auditors can freely voice the real challenges our youth face within the Church.
We also attended a concert put together from youth all over the world. Several shared their testimonies of pain, loneliness, temptation, and also shared how the Church has accompanied them. They also asked Pope Francis questions that highlight their challenges within the Church. It was impressive to see Pope Francis take the stage and offer reflections in response to the questions presented, and then later direct the responsibility of providing answers to the Synodal Bishops.
This weekend, I also had the opportunity to see some of the tombs in St. Peter’s Basilica and I attended a private Sunday mass before Pope St. John Paul II’s tomb. It was particularly special to me as he is my second favorite pope and much of the work in this synod’s focus on our youth is thanks to his inauguration of World Youth Days.
My hope is that I continue to remain energized and hopeful as I engage with Pope Francis and experience the peculiarities, histories, and traditions of my faith while being in the holy city of the Catholic Church.