The U.S. Catholic Church will convene a yearlong intercultural process with young adults and ministry leaders July 25.
Called "Journeying Together," the initiative aims to explore the Catholic Church's engagement with young people of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds and mobilize U.S. Catholics on issues and concerns related to culture and race in the United States, according to a July 22 news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The USCCB's Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church is leading the initiative, with the involvement of several USCCB secretariats -- Catholic Education, Evangelization and Catechesis, and Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. They will be joined by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry.
Due to health concerns created by the novel coronavirus, the initiative will primarily take place online from July through next May. Plans call for a live gathering to take place next summer, pending health and safety directives.
It is based on Pope Francis' call for encounter and dialogue in his 2019 apostolic exhortation "Christus Vivit," ("Christ Lives") on the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment.
The pope urged parishes and dioceses to rethink their young and young adult programs and to make changes based on what young people themselves say they want and need. Youth ministry cannot be elitist or focused only on the teens and young adults already active in the church's life, he said.
He also called on Catholic youth to reach out to other young people, to not be afraid to mention Jesus and to invite friends to church or a church-sponsored activity.
The "Journeying Together" process will feature intracultural and intercultural digital gatherings and conversations with young adult delegates and key ministry leaders from different cultural communities, including African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, European Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, and Native Americans, as well as immigrant groups, migrants and refugees.
Delegates, who include bishops, young adults and local ministry leaders, "will seek to involve their peers in the dialogue and mobilization aspects of this yearlong experience," the news release said.
The conversations will be facilitated by young adults in response to Pope Francis encouraging young people to be "protagonists" in the church's mission of evangelization.
"This dialogue comes at an incredibly important time in our nation's history where we find ourselves engaged in a serious conversation about race and racism, with calls for meaningful and lasting social reform, a movement led in large part by young people across the country and around the world," said Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson J. Perez, chairman of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church.
"The COVID-19 pandemic also has affected communities of color most significantly," he said in a statement. "Over the course of the next year, it is my hope that we can have honest conversations on these and other issues impacting young people and on how we can move ahead on the important questions of race, culture and community."
Organizers of the initiative "have been very intentional about making sure every cultural family has their voice represented and a seat at the table as we journey together," he added. "The bishops are looking forward to learning from the young people and those who accompany them."