Synod intervention of Sister Sally Marie Hodgdon

Holy Father, brother Cardinals and Bishops and sister and brother participants,

Be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose…  are the words of St. Paul in his encouraging and challenging message to the early Christians in Philippi and the words of the First Scripture Reading for our Opening Mass yesterday.

We are all here because of this common love for Jesus Christ, who calls us to a life held in common, rooted in the gospel values, and centered around our sole purpose of helping others experience and live fully the personal love of God.

As a representative of UISG and women religious throughout the world, I encourage all of us to let go of anything that is a block to the movement of this Spirit of building this common life and love together. We come as a synodol community, a community whose focus is to listen differently to the youth, to listen differently with the grace of greater openness than we have ever offered them before.  Our founders and foundresses were women and men who took risks, who listened differently to their reality and the needs of the people and now it is our turn.

We come to offer ourselves as companions, to accompany the youth in becoming aware of their hopes and dreams and discerning a particular way to live God’s love in their current reality.  We are invited to risk creating new spaces for the youth, spaces where their voices are heard and where they can freely and safely experiment in how best to express their longings and to express that which they are seeking.

We must encourage our youth, allowing them to help recreate the church of Jesus; to design what a welcoming and open church is and looks like today, a church community where there is no competition but rather a sharing of gifts of women and men at all levels; a church that welcomes diversity of cultures, of prayer and varying ways to live as committed members.

Are we willing to listen to and respect their questions…to let them just be with their questions…to help them explore their questions?  They are not always seeking answers, but we can offer to hold the questions with them.

We, too, have questions that we need to walk through and live with. Can we invite the Youth to walk with us in these questions?  Can we allow our common love for Jesus be the space in which we all meet and grow?

Our Church and the Society are walking a new journey, a difficult journey and yet, as with all crisis, a journey that has new opportunities and possibilities. Yes, our Church took away the innocence of many youth and now we are trying to repent and give it back…but to a generation from whom innocence was stripped in a different way, stripped through non-acceptance, by making youth feel invisible, and by offering them some models who lacked integrity, transparency and authentic gospel living.

To listen differently, we must be willing to be transparent, to be vulnerable before the youth of today and to walk along side of them. Can we share our passion in ways that stir up the sparks of life within them but do not dominate nor judge them?

Are we open to expand the parish circle of leadership to include more youth with the freedom to lead in a different way? Are we open to Youth Advisors in all Dioceses? Can we establish an International Youth Council to explore needs and ideas and share them on a Global level with the Vatican, Conferences of Bishops and Major Superiors? Will we make more space for trained sisters, brothers and lay spiritual directors to accompany youth on our campuses, in our parishes, and other places?

This is a moment for youth to share leadership with us, for youth to be co-creators and to challenge all the people of God to live more fully our common purpose of revealing God’s love.

Can we be open and walk this path with them?


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