Young adults invited to special listening session with Bishop McClory 

MERRILLVILLE – When Pope Francis called for a global Synod on Synodality, a directive aimed at fostering dialogue and discernment within the Catholic Church, it was designed to include people of all races, genders and ages. As part of this ongoing initiative, the Diocese of Gary recently invited young adults to a special listening session with Bishop Robert J. McClory.

Approximately 30 adults, 18-39 years old, who reside in the counties that make up the diocese arrived at the Pastoral Center on March 7 for an evening of food, fellowship, prayer and conversation.
Matt Kresich works as the director of young Catholics at Holy Name of Jesus in Cedar Lake. In his additional role as the diocesan synod coordinator, he welcomed those who attended and helped moderate the evening’s agenda.
“What we are hoping to do tonight is capture your voice,” Kresich told the group of young adults. “We will talk about the synod a little bit, but this is a night of conversation and genuine listening.”
Kresich explained that the evening was not intended to be a venting session but a space for an open and honest conversation with young people. He asked those participating to proceed with a listening heart as they shared the challenges they face and how the Church accompanies them.
Each table selected a scribe who wrote down general notes regarding the comments and ideas shared among those at their table that was then presented for inclusion in a diocesan synod report that will be passed on to the Vatican.  
The first round of conversation centered around the general question “What are the challenges affecting young people?” Pressures of social media, lack of self-worth, struggles with relationships, factors resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and mental health were some of the topics mentioned.
Taking the discussion a step further, each table was asked to talk about “In what ways has the Church responded well?” and “How can the Church respond better?”
Several of the participants encouraged the Church to remain stable in a world that is always changing, in addition to remaining welcoming to all. They shared that they felt there could be more focus put on Catholic teachings for youth and adults, more efforts to reach the unchurched and more opportunities for young people to engage and interact in a Church setting with one another.
On the flip side, the young adults were appreciative of the opportunities that have been developed by some parishes to engage their age group, including the listening session.
Samantha Thornberry, of Holy Martyrs Parish in Merrillville, said it was nice to have the chance to be among people with diverse backgrounds and those from other parishes.
“It was nice having small group discussions, having Bishop McClory there and having the chance to hear other people’s input,” she said.
Nathan Puch, of St. John the Evangelist in St. John, agreed it was nice to see a group of individuals from throughout the diocese coming together.
“I liked how easy it was to meet new people,” he said, “and how everyone could come to a place and easily discuss problems.”
At the end of the discussions, Bishop McClory gave a response to some of the concepts raised during the evening. He explained how the listening session came at an appropriate time, having just completed a silent retreat which reminded him of the importance of remaining in a “listening posture” and making time to listen to God.
Giving a little bit of his background, Bishop McClory shared that he was raised in a Catholic family as the youngest of four children. He said there was never a time while growing up that he didn’t believe in the Catholic faith, and in his later high school to young adult years he started to realize that “If this is true – and it is – then it is the most (important) single truth I can ever have. The conviction that all of us have is so beautiful, and we should want to be deepened in that and share that,” he said.
Bishop McClory pointed out that he, too, has lived as a young adult, paying bills, deciding on a career, dating and “trying to figure out what God was calling me to; and in the midst of all that, knowing that what God has done for me calls me to try and respond.”
He went on to encourage the young adults to consider how God might be calling them to respond – to build up their personal faith communities. 
Bishop McClory said what stood out to him most from the conversation was the idea that young adults have feelings of isolation and loneliness while being part of the most connected culture in history. One positive aspect of the increase in technology in recent years, he added, is the number of resources people can utilize to grow in their spiritual life, such as apps and podcasts like “Hallow,” “Word on Fire,” “The Bible in the Year,” and others. 
“The old model of (how we pass) on the faith is gone in a sense … ,” said Bishop McClory. The ways people learn about faith today invite exploration.  “‘What does the church teach?’ ‘How am I responding to that?’ and ‘How can I share that with others?’” (This approach) is a little bit different. It’s more challenging, but it's also more exciting because we get to say, ‘I’ve got the greatest thing I can give to you and that’s Jesus Christ.’” 

For more information on youth and young adult programs within the Diocese of Gary, visit