Embracing Global Faith | A Journey to the International Youth Congress

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Nick Wilson

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June 24, 2024

It is an incredible thing to be asked by the bishops to serve the national Church. That was my first thought when I was asked to go to Rome. I had been asked to attend the International Youth Congress, hosted by the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

The idea was to arrive a little early because the time difference is 10 hours, which reverses night and day for us. We were to be hosted at the Il Carmelo Catholic Conference Centre, not far from Vatican City.

I stayed at Rosmini House, at the invitation of Fr. Robin Kurian IC, former priest at St. Mary’s Parish in Palmerston North. It is important to understand that we are part of the global Church, and we have connections all over the world.

The conference included examining our learnings from the World Youth Day (WYD) event in Lisbon, so we could prepare for WYD 2027 in Seoul, Korea.

We talked about the challenges that young people face as a result of the Covid pandemic and war zones. We engaged in the topic of youth leadership in the synodal process and how young people engage in the mission of the Church. We worked specifically on how we do formation and spiritual accompaniment of young leaders in a synodal way. This speaks to the Pope’s document to young people called Christus Vivit: Christ is Alive, because accompaniment is one of the main themes of this document.

We were fortunate enough to have Sr. Nathalie Berquart XMCJ, Under-Secretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod, come and speak to us about the synodal way and how it is impacting not just young Church, but the whole Church.

As you might appreciate, the Church is full of different languages and we had to have much of the talks we were in interpreted, which requires a special apparatus that each person was issued.

In between all these speakers and group work, we celebrated Mass every day using five languages in the Mass. It was very full-on, with the days beginning at 7 am and going late into the night!

One of the highlights of this trip was a private audience with Pope Francis. There were just over 300 people in this audience. The Pope is 87 and requires a wheelchair now, but he was so excited to meet us! He was wheeled in, flanked by the Swiss Guard, a special unit assigned to protect him; official Vatican photographers; his entourage; and ushers, who prepped us with the protocol for meeting the Pope. Our usual way to greet each other is a hongi, but I did not hongi the Pope—just in case the Swiss Guard got the wrong idea!

After the conference, I met with our New Zealand Marist seminarians in Rome and took a day to visit Assisi. It was important to go there because that is where Carlo Acutis is. He was announced as the first millennial saint of the Church and was 16 when he died.

I recommend going to Rome to visit St. Peter’s Basilica and all the other famous historical aspects of the Church there. The Pope has called a Jubilee Year for 2025, which will happen predominantly in Rome, so more information is coming soon about that, especially the Jubilee of Youth, which is from 28 July to 3 August 2025. So, let’s be excited to be young Church together!

Read more from the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life here.

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