In order to respond to the summons of the Final Document of the Synod of Bishops, held in Rome last October, the Diocese of Macau organized a Youth Forum to kickstart its own three-year Year of the Youth. The Final Document revolved around three themes taken from the Gospel scene of the disciples of Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35): “he walked with them,” “their eyes were opened,” and “they left without delay.”
The Youth Forum was convened in the hall of the bishop’s office on December 30, from 12:30 to 4:00 PM, with a simple Chinese theme (作主青年) which has a dual meaning: to become youth for the Lord and for the youth to take the lead in this endeavor. Macau Bishop Stephen Lee had stressed that he would like the youth to play an active role in the program.
The main feature of the forum included group discussions and a lively exchange with Bishop Stephen Lee. The conversation revolved around four topics: the identity of Catholic faithful, the life of faith, the role of the Diocese and the Bishop’s own thoughts on the youth.
Some participants admitted that being a Catholic at times implied a certain pressure, especially when they were asked about their faith and also when people around them expect them to prove their faith in actions. The Bishop told them that this is a good thing because it challenges them to preserve and to show the image of Christ to others.
Someone asked about how to apply the faith in daily life, even as they go to Sunday Mass. The Bishop replied that Sunday Mass brings a lot of graces, but also encouraged them to take up some simple spiritual practices, such as brief moments of prayer, or a couple of minutes of reading the Scripture as their “daily bread.”
A question was raised about how to help Catholic students who graduate from high school and find themselves in a university with no Catholic ethos. The Bishop encouraged participation in Catholic societies in the university. He added that he was studying the possibility of setting up a federation of Catholic societies from the different local universities which could address the problem.
One of the participants admitted about being embarrassed in confession. Bishop Lee told him not to worry, as there is no single saint on earth. But he also remarked that using a confessional with a screen can solve the problem.
The Bishop also explained why he decided on three years instead of one. The reason is that it takes time to plan, design and promote a proper program for the young.
A girl asked if the Diocese will also have activities for them. Bishop Lee said that the Diocese had initially focused on finding students for the seminary, but the Diocese is seriously studying ways to organize a vocation camp for girls.
Replying to a question about those with homosexual tendencies, Bishop Lee said that everyone without exception is enjoined to observe the commandments. He mentioned the Holy Family as an example of human love for everyone to imitate.