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 | By Bishop Oscar Cantú

To the Faithful of the Diocese of San Jose

Each year, I visit our Catholic schools across the diocese, witnessing the marvelous programs that educate the whole person, allowing students to grow intellectually, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. I witness the joy, faith, sense of safety, and earnestness of our students. In various settings, I enjoy visiting and interacting with our teens and young adults, listening to their questions, concerns, hopes, and dreams.

I sometimes ask myself, what about the children, teens, and young adults we do not reach? What about those who have either drifted away from the church or actively walked away? Who listens to them? Who walks with them?

We find our answer in the gospel in the case where the disciples, on the road to Emmaus, found themselves dejected, with their hopes in Jesus dashed by the crucifixion. Even as they symbolically walked away from their faith and from the church in Jerusalem, Jesus appeared to them. Through their tears and the cloud of despair that hovered about them, they did not recognize him. But Jesus listened to them and continues to do so through us.

I want to emphasize that Jesus listened. He heard and understood their disappointment. Only after having listened, he explained the true story of salvation, including that of his own suffering, death, and resurrection. His story was one of hope and, indeed, joy, which prompted the disciples’ invitation to dinner, at which they finally recognized him in the breaking of the bread.  This story repeats every time a disciple strives to listen as Christ did and finds themselves heard as disciples who personally make room to encounter the Lord and receive Him at mass.

As a teenager, while I was very involved in school, sports, and spending time with friends and family, I felt compelled to be involved in my faith in the parish youth group and choir. Impactful retreats I attended in my youth helped to deepen my faith and a personal (and ecclesial) relationship with Jesus Christ.  During those years, I began to feel the call to priesthood, to which I finally responded upon graduating from high school.

As a young priest, I spent a good deal of time in teen and young adult ministry. This experience personally enriched my faith and priestly identity through listening to the real-life experiences of young adults. In an environment that seems ever more secular and busier by the moment, I encourage our youth and young adults to find in Jesus a confidant, a friend who listens to us and loves us no matter what.  Jesus calls us out of ourselves to follow him and be transformed by him into the person God calls us to be, full of love, peace, and joy.

As we implement our Pastoral Plan for the diocese, we will have opportunities to listen more intently to our young Catholics and take seriously their suggestions on ways to improve our ministry with youth and reach out to those no longer in our programs. We want our ministry to youth and young adults not simply to be for them but with them.

Let us keep our young Catholics in our prayers!