For four weeks Brother Robert Schieler FSC, Superior General, participated in the City of Vatican in the Synod of Bishops on “Youth, faith and vocational discernment”. The bishops, together with priests, men and women religious, and young people from all over the world, lived days of prayer, discussion, analysis and dialogue about the current times and the Church commitment to the reality of the new generations.
After the Synod at the same time he was preparing his pastoral visit to the Brothers and Lasallians of Brazil on October 30, Brother Robert answered some questions about this important ecclesial experience, which gave the Church the occasion to hear the voice of thousands of Lasallian educators who continue to be passionate about God and humanity in 80 countries around the world.
If a young person asks you: what is a synod really for? What would your answer be?
A synod is a gathering of Bishops to advise the Pope and on occasion, to reflect on an important issue in the life of the Church and World. Synods were the fruit of the Second Vatican Council as a step for more collegial relations and dialogue in the Church particularly between Bishops and the Pope. A gift of Pope Francis is to expand the voices, beyond Bishops, at Synods.
What would be 3 words you would use to describe your experience as an active member of Synod 2018?
To be invited to participate in a synod is humbling. To experience the Church’s universality is a blessing. To be in dialogue with young people is energizing.
What are the main lessons you can learn from this event that is so important for the church.
- Pope Francis is serious about creating a listening Church and a Church that lives the Gospel of Jesus.
- Many young people have passion for their vocation and want to play a role in God’ mission given to the Church.
- Inclusivity remains a challenge for the institutional Church.
Once the synod is over, what are the paths that our Lasallian educational mission must continue or begin to follow?
First, we must not have the mindset that the synod is over. We should consider the Synod as a midpoint in a continuing process. Second, it should be noted that the Institute’s 45th General Chapter in 2014 anticipated major themes of the Synod: accompaniment, the variety of vocations in the Church today, the importance of continuing formation, and the need for, and a commitment to, a new pedagogy of catechesis. We must remain faithful and creative to these commitments mandated by the Capitulants to the General Chapter.
What key themes should we De La Salle Christian Brothers deepen in order to foster and accompany the vocational discernment of young people?
Fraternity: As De La Salle Brothers and Lasallian Partners we must continue to invite young people into our communities for prayer and dialogue.
Volunteering: expand volunteering programs where young people minister to the poor and vulnerable and have a community living experience with Brothers and Partner for a significant time period, several months to a year.
Trust: trust in divine providence, trust in one another, trust in our young people.
What would you call these times we are living in? Are we facing: a crisis of Faith? An ecclesial crisis?
The growing intolerance in the public arena and the proliferation of fake news is a crisis of today. The plight of refugees, the greatest migration of earth’s people since the Second World War is a tragedy that we must not ignore. We and the Church must better utilize our resources, our experiences and our voices for those without voice.
Are there any walls that prevent us from listening to young people?
A gift of our charism is the nature of our relationship with our students, elder Brothers and Sisters to younger brothers and sisters. Relationships are fostered by calling them by name and honoring their individual dignity. As we approach the 2019 Year of Lasallian Vocations we give thanks for the life of John Baptist de La Salle who, with his first Brothers, gave birth to an educational vision and methodology that eradicated walls between teacher and student.
What are the bridges that we can build with them?
Throughout the synod and in the working document the value of Catholic education provided by many congregations of religious women and men was highlighted and acknowledged. The “bridge” we must continually build is an educational environment where the poor and the middle and upper classes of our societies encounter one another and mutually educate one another.
A final word to…
The La Salle Brothers:
The Synod called for an approach to the young which is at the heart of our vocation. We have a privileged vocation where we walk with the young. We are in close relationship with them accompanying them on their journey to building a faith life as they mature to adulthood. They are our teachers as much as we are theirs. What a rich blessing is our heritage!
To our young Lasallians:
The Church wants to move beyond mandating to the young and all the people of God to engagement with them. The synod called for co-responsibility of young people with the Church. It recognized young people as protagonists in the Church and partners in announcing the Good News, particularly to their peers. The synod also acknowledged the invisibility of Bishops, priests and religious to the young and lack of regular contact with them. There is a desire to rectify this. Dear young people do not lose hope and faith in us.
To our partners, teachers and associates:
The indispensible role of schools and universities in educating and forming children, youth and young people was acknowledged and extolled. Thank you Lasallians for the gift of your vocation and the daily sacrifices you make on behalf of all those entrusted to your care.