| Most Rev. Steven J. Raica, Fifth Bishop of Birmingham in Alabama

‘You are the present’

Dear sisters and brothers,

Our young Catholic Christians play a vital role in the life of the Church today. While often we rely on Catholic schools and faith formation programs (parish schools of religion) for the ongoing faith development of our young people, we must not forget that there are numerous  events every year throughout the diocese and the Church that are designed to engage Catholic youth. Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) meetings for collegians and the National Catholic Youth Conference for teens bring together young people throughout our country for unforgettable events of gathering, communion, and sending forth in mission. Similarly, Franciscan University and other similar venues — too many to number here — awaken the centrality of faith as lived by the saints and lived by believers from around the world.

The life journey of a soul begins and becomes more pronounced with an experience of faith. It can happen and does happen. It doesn’t stay just locked up in a closet for which only a few have the right key to open the door. Rather, it happens all around us, oftentimes in the most unlikely of circumstances. Throughout our diocese, I encounter young people who already have a relationship with Christ. It’s such a beautiful thing. Some are awakening to the fact that life can truly be even more real and genuine than they originally thought.

Recently, a couple of us were talking about the impact of World Youth Day (WYD), a global initiative inspired by Pope St. John Paul II. Many priests, religious sisters, and married couples found their vocation during WYD in Denver in the 1990s.

Young people came from all around the world. It concluded with a five-mile walk up to Cherry Creek Park in the mountains for an all-night vigil with Pope St. John Paul II. It was a turning point for many as they embarked on accepting the dream of God for them.

But thinking back, and in hindsight, we were astonished by the fact that there were no cell phones, no internet, no instant communication. Everything was still “old tech,” yet young people came in droves to be part of this amazing experience. In spite of whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, we should never underestimate what the power of the Holy Spirit can do for us.

At the final Mass at WYD in Panama City a few years ago, Pope Francis called on young people to embrace the mission with boldness: "You, dear young people, are not the future. We like to say, 'You are the future.' No, you are the present. You are not the future of God; you, young people, are the now of God. He invites you and calls you in your communities and cities to go out and find your grandparents, your elders, to stand up with them and to speak out and realize the dream that the Lord has dreamed for you. Not tomorrow. Now!"

Thankfully, young people throughout our parishes and institutions, remind us of dreams and hopes and enthusiasm. As Christians today, now more than ever, we need dreamers who reflect the power of God’s presence among us. Perhaps, it’s God’s way of reminding us that we have an amazing life ahead of us.

‘Tú eres el presente’