One of the gifts Pope Francis has turned his attention to recently is the world’s young people. He has called for a special meeting, called a synod, in 2018 on young people and vocations. Bishops from around the world will gather to examine how the church can best help young people develop a life of faith and discern their vocations.
The Vatican announced the synod on Oct. 6, explaining that the meeting will seek to accompany young people so “they may discover their life plan and fulfill it with joy, opening themselves to an encounter with God and with men and women, and actively participating in the building of the church and society.”
It’s a beautiful vision for young people, who are often portrayed negatively in TV shows and movies. The truth is, young people, who are the future of the church, are searching for their paths. And the church is right to be present as a guide for their discernment.
But this vision is just a pipe dream for young people who are homeless or who lack a fixed living situation.
The Metropolitan Housing Coalition released its annual “State of Metropolitan Housing Report” on Dec. 13 and revealed dire statistics. About 96,000 children in the Louisville Metro area lack a fixed, stable home.
Cathy Hinko, the executive director of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, said in an interview aired on WFPL yesterday, “six percent of our kids experience severe housing instability in any school year at some point.”
“This has a deleterious affect on those children’s ability to learn, so if you’re looking for an educated work-force that can participate, you have to house families today and let their children thrive.”
As people of faith, we might add, if you want well-formed faithful people living God’s plan for them, we have to find solutions for housing low-income families.
People must have food, clothing and shelter before they can turn their attention and aspirations to something more, said Ed Wnorowski, the executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul here in Louisville during an interview with The Record Dec 13.
“You’re waking up in the morning worrying about where you’re going to spend the night and where you’re going to eat that day,” he said. “It would take a very gifted person” to develop a rich faith life and discern a vocation.
That’s not to say people who are struggling to meet basic needs can’t or don’t have rich faith lives, but it would be a challenge. The opportunity for faith formation, retreats, study and discernment are luxuries. How many homeless people — of any age — are active members of our parishes? How many homeless children attend Catholic schools or religious education programs?
Here’s some good news. Here in the Archdiocese of Louisville, a coalition of agencies is aiming to reduce homelessness among young people. A press release issued by the Coalition for the Homeless in late November sets a high goal, aiming to end homelessness among young adults ages 18 to 24 by 2020.
The release describes young adults as the fastest growing demographic in the homeless population around the country. In 2015, there were 418 homeless young adults in Louisville and 450 children under the age of 18 who were not only homeless, but living unaccompanied by an adult.
The Coalition for the Homeless needs our support in this effort. Undoubtedly, the church already has a robust ministry to aid the homeless and impoverished; what possibilities can we envision for opening a life of faith for these brothers and sisters?
This is one of the challenges we ought to face as a church: How can we help people who lack basic needs “discover their life plan and fulfill it with joy?” We are called to consider this question by our church, which believes in a preferential option for the poor.
On the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12, the patroness of the Americas, including the United States, Pope Francis prayed for an end to violence in the Americas and a guarantee of “land, work and a roof” over the heads of all.