Back in the fall of 2020, when everything was shut down because of COVID, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) held various Zoom call meetings with a total of 200 young Canadians between the ages of 12 and 25. The meetings were meant to be a time for dialogue, reflection, and information gathering.
The bishops then took what they learned from those meetings and turned it into a pastoral letter to young people, releasing it this past week to coincide with the feast day of Blessed Carlo Acutis, an Italian who died of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 15. The letter highlights what the bishops heard in those conversations with young people across Canada.
“As Bishops of Canada, we wish to walk with young people, not only to understand better the world through their experience of it, but also to encourage and support them as they grow in their own faith,” the letter states.
Here are some of the main things the bishops learned about today’s teens and young adults.
They often experience stress, anxiety, and depression.
There are a lot of pressures and challenges for young people today, ranging from peer pressure and family problems to concerns at school and work — all of which have a big impact on their mental health.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left them with many challenges.
COVID and all that came with it has left young people with uncertainties about their lives and their futures. They feel unsure about how well prepared they are for the future, whether they will be able to get into the universities and land the jobs they desire, and they are worried about the rising costs of living.
They view digital platforms favorably and want the Church to continue using digital spaces.
The youth that the bishops spoke to said they appreciated the live-streamed masses, online prayer resources, and virtual events and groups that sprouted up during the pandemic and want them to continue. That said …
Their use of social media can be debilitating.
Young people told the bishops that social media can become “all-consuming, meaningless, and even hurtful, which leads to feelings of isolation, loneliness and diminished self-worth.” It can leave them feeling extremely socially isolated.
They are worried about climate change and the health of the planet.
Perhaps more than any other generation, Gen Z believes creation is a gift of God and must be protected and cherished.
They want to grow in their faith.
Some young people feel forgotten, with one person telling the bishops, “It seems that after Confirmation, the Church forgets about us until marriage preparation.” They want to see opportunities to grow in faith, discern their vocation and ways to help others.
They want to be heard and valued.
Young people want to be able to ask questions, and to have their views and concerns taken seriously. They want to be respected and to feel they have something of value to contribute to the Church and to the world
They value witness.
The bishops shared their personal faith stories with the young people they spoke to and say in their letter that they were humbled by that:
“This shows us that you value witnesses as a source of inspiration for your faith journey,” they said. Young people are not different than people of any age: they are moved by authentic witness and testimony.
The pastoral letter also highlights three great models for young people — Blessed Carlo Acutis, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and the Blessed Mother, and it ends with the bishops reminding young people of their great value.