By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Last week, members of Louisville Young Catholics listened to Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz speak about his participation in the Synod of Bishops on the family last October at the Vatican.
The archbishop was a special guest of the group’s monthly pub night at Saints Pizza and Pub in St. Matthews.
About 60 young adults, mainly in their 20s and 30s, asked questions and provided the archbishop with insights unique to their age group.
Archbishop Kurtz told the young Catholics that in order to prepare for the next synod this fall — which also will focus on family — he must “come up with the best recommendations possible.” One way for him to do that, he said, is to take to heart comments and observations made by young Catholics in order to “shape and form the kind of delegate” he is.
As president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Kurtz is one of the four delegates from the U.S. to the Oct. 4-25 world Synod of Bishops, which will focus on the theme “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World.”
During his informal address at the pub, the archbishop noted that Pope Francis called the 2014 synod in response to another major meeting — the 2012 synod on the new evangelization.
“The next logical step that Pope Francis felt was required was now to look at how the family prepares people for the ‘joy of the gospel’ and are actually instruments of new evangelization,” he said. “In other words, how can family be renewed and restored in order for society and church to be renewed and restored?”
Archbishop Kurtz said it’s his hope that the two-part process synod of last year and this year will be an “opportunity to talk about the beauty of what family is.”
“We begin of course with the rock bottom understanding of the marriage of man and woman to one another open to life,” he said.
He also noted that it is incumbent upon Catholics to treat each person with dignity and to “walk with people, to accompany people.”
“What does it mean to accompany, let’s say, a family in which a young person has a same sex attraction? What does it mean to show dignity to that individual?” he asked.
When we accompany people, he said, it’s important to find ways to reach out to them on a personal level.
The archbishop also noted there is a great concern across the United States and the world for people who divorce and remarry without obtaining annulments.
He said the 2014 synod examined several areas of potential pastoral changes that could remove barriers for couples to remarry in the church.
“The idea is that we should be looking for ways to remove obstacles to make it as easy and inviting as possible for people to at least to examine their marriage situation to see if they may qualify for an annulment and could be married within the church,” he said.
Following his presentation, the archbishop invited the young adults gathered to ask questions about his role in the synod or topics that flowed from synod discussions.
Matthew Parris, a parishioner of St. Louis Bertrand Church, asked the archbishop if there was any discussion among the synod participants on how the church could better prepare couples for the sacrament of marriage, such as longer preparation periods.
The archbishop noted that couples have the right to marry and the church cannot unnecessarily delay that right.
But, he said, this topic is being examined. He said that each diocese will approach the topic in a different way, but one idea that’s being considered is to promote the use of “mentor couples” who could serve as role models and accompany young couples through the early years of marriage.
Another young adult, Haley Sizemore, who attends St. Albert the Great Church, asked if the synod developed concrete ways to reach out to people or families that are not living “the church model of the family.”
The archbishop said, first and foremost, each person should be treated with dignity. Beyond that, he suggested people exercise patience.
“Patience is at the very core of what it means to accompany,” he said.
The archbishop also said it’s important to lead these individuals into healthy friendships that honor the gift of sexuality.
Louisville Young Catholics (LYC) holds monthly pub night at Saints on the second Wednesday of the month. The next pub night will be May 13 at 7 p.m. and will feature a discussion on the Eucharist.
Follow LYC on Twitter @LouYoungCath.
LYC also holds a Holy Hour called “Christ in the City” on the last Friday of each month. The next one will be April 24 at 7 p.m. The location is not yet determined.