“Listening to different ways of thinking”

Rev. Karla Steilmann, centre, with Dr. Vidal Rodriguez (Spain) and Nun Aura Guadalupe Ortega (Guatemala), who were both representing the Theological Education Institution. Photo: LWF
Rev. Karla Steilmann, centre, with Dr. Vidal Rodriguez (Spain) and Nun Aura Guadalupe Ortega (Guatemala), who were both representing the Theological Education Institution. Photo: LWF

LWF youth represented at Catholic pre-synod meeting

(LWI) - Young Catholics pose the same questions of the church and their role within the church as young people of any other confession. "It is not something confessional, it is not that it happens to the Lutherans, or it happens to Catholics but it is a generational issue." This was the conclusion Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Council member Rev. Karla Steilmann came to after attending the recent youth pre-synodal meeting at the Vatican in Rome.

The meeting was one of a number held in preparation for the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which takes place in October. The pre-synodal meeting was described by Pope Francis as an opportunity to hear the voices of youth. He said the church wanted to listen to the voice, sensitivities, faith and also the doubts and criticism of the young.

Rev. Steilmann, of the Evangelical Church of the River Plate in Argentina, an LWF member church, joined over 300 other participants as a representative of LWF. In attending the pre-synodal, which included people of many different confessions and faiths, she realized the mission of Catholic youth is universal.

“Their quest is not very different from what we as young people asked ourselves at the pre-Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation in 2017 in Namibia,” she said. “Young Catholics have the same questions regarding the church as an institution, its management and what they can do themselves to be the future of the church.”

The key of contact between generations

Rev. Steilmann took part in discussions that led to the writing of a document reflecting the perspectives and aspirations of youth in the Catholic church. It was handed to the Pope on Palm Sunday and will be incorporated into the Instrumentum laboris, the document the Synod Fathers will study next October.

It proposes an inclusive and open church, in which young people can develop freely, calls for the church to take a stance on war and political conflicts, and an open dialogue on gender and human sexuality.

Two special moments stood out for Rev. Steilmann. The first was the opening of the event in the presence of Pope Francis, in which there were moments for dialogue with him. The other was the completion of document, which the youth then handed to Pope Francis. “That was like the key of contact between a new generation and the previous generations of the Catholic church.”

It was an important opportunity for me to be in an ecumenical environment of this dimension.
Rev. Karla Steilmann

To Rev. Steilmann, it was a powerful experience to be the only Lutheran among people from many other confessions. “It was an important opportunity for me to be in an ecumenical environment of this dimension. The beauty of this was to be able to listen to different ways of thinking and different ways of living one’s life and one’s faith, and seeing that this can be done together,” she says.

Rev. Steilmann found it inspiring to work alongside young people of other confessions and religions, seeing it also as a possibility to include representatives of ecumenical partners in future LWF youth gatherings.

“During the discussions I realized that as heirs to the tradition of the Reformation we youth from different confessions question, criticize and expect virtually the same things in our churches,” concludes Rev. Steilmann.

 

Final document of pre-synod meeting