U.S. bishops approve framework for ministry with young people

Bishop Robert E. Barron, chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, presented “Listen, Teach, Send: A National Pastoral Framework for Ministries with Youth and Young Adults” June 13 during the bishops’ Spring Plenary Assembly at the Omni Louisville Hotel downtown. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

A new pastoral framework to guide ministry with youth and young adults  — modeled on the Gospel story of two disciples’ encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus — has been approved by the U.S. bishops. 

“Listen, Teach, Send: A National Pastoral Framework for Ministries with Youth and Young Adults,” was presented by Bishop Robert E. Barron during the first public session of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ plenary assembly June 13 in Louisville at the downtown Omni Louisville Hotel. 

Bishop Barron — who serves as chair of the conference’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family  Life and Youth — told fellow bishops this new framework could be a “watershed moment” for ministry with young people.

Bishop Barron said to his listeners that the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver and the release of two national frameworks on youth and young adults 30 years ago was the “last major moment for our church’s work with these age groups. Since then, frankly, enthusiasm has waned while disaffiliation has risen.” 

The committee hopes that “Listen, Teach, Send,” together with Pope Francis’ encouragement in the synod and in his 2019 encyclical “Christus Vivit,” can produce another watershed moment, Bishop Barron said.

He described the new framework as “a summons to the church to renew her engagement with youth and young adults,” imitating Jesus Christ on the journey to Emmaus.

Like Jesus in the Gospel story, “We are called deeply to listen to the realities facing young people … to teach in a new way … and finally, to send youth and young adults forth,” as they follow God’s call in their mission to transform the world, he said.  

The required number of bishops were not present at the June 14 plenary session to approve the framework — a measure requires two-thirds of the conference’s vote to pass. The framework received 178 votes that day. On June 18, the USCCB announced bishops who were absent were allowed to vote, leading to the framework’s passage with 188 votes in favor, four against and four abstaining.

Michal Horace, who leads the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Youth and Young Adults, said his office is excited about this new framework and looking forward to sharing it with youth ministers.

“It’ll invigorate the field and remind folks that everyone is a youth minister,” Horace said in a recent interview. “The best thing is it takes what we learned from the synod on youth, the fruit of Christus Vivit,” and the results of national gatherings such as the V Encuentro and bring it all together.

Horace said the story of the Road to Emmaus has long been his model for doing youth ministry. He was pleased to see that the national framework is modeled on the Gospel story as well, he said. “Jesus was such a great model. He listened first to figure out their situation and what they needed,” he said. It’s a great model for all of us.”

He added that this model of listening, teaching and sending aligns with his office’s approach to ministry which is to “focus on accompaniment and relationships.”

Horace has served on a committee responsible for developing some of the resources the framework will use. He noted the framework speaks generally about youth and young adults, including college-age students; however, the “resources for implementation” will be tailored towards each group.  

In the coming months, Horace said he will ensure youth ministers across the archdiocese are aware of the new pastoral plan. “My office will take time to read and reflect. … We’ll spend time reading and figuring out ways to use it in our ministry,” he said. 

In his presentation June 13, Bishop Barron said “Listen, Teach, Send” is, in part, a response to Pope Francis’ 2019 encyclical Christus Vivit in which he encouraged bishops worldwide to create a national framework for youth ministry.    

To come up with the framework, the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth engaged in “concerted listening” with youth and young adults, pastoral ministers, families and bishops, he said.

“What we heard was that we needed a framework that was streamlined and straightforward, not just for use by pastors and pastoral ministers, but by families and by young people themselves” who can evangelize their peers, said Bishop Barron. “ … We heard a desire to name and address issues including sexuality, mental health, disaffiliation, racial justice, polarization and the desire of so many young people to transform our society.”

Bishop Barron went on to share with the gathering that “Most importantly, we heard that we cannot be silent or inactive when it comes to the engagement and accompaniment of youth and young adults.” 

The committee hopes the framework will offer “new life” to youth ministers, he said.

Ruby Thomas
Written By
Ruby Thomas
More from Ruby Thomas
Sixth graders called to discern their vocation
Close to 100 sixth-grade students had the opportunity to listen to vocation...
Read More
0 replies on “U.S. bishops approve framework for ministry with young people”