The Instrumentum laboris describes the scope of the upcoming Synod on Youth, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment with these words: “just as our Lord Jesus Christ walked alongside the disciples of Emmaus, the Church is also urged to accompany all young people, without exception, towards the joy of love” (no. 1). The theme of accompaniment weaves through the document like a melody on which all other harmonies are based. In fact, accompaniment is explained as a non-negotiable within youth ministry. “The accompaniment of younger generations is not an optional element in the task of educating and evangelizing young people, but an ecclesial duty and a right of every young person” (no. 85).
This concept is not new in the life of the Church. In 1976, the United States’ Bishops published A Vision of Youth Ministry, which proposed the story of Emmaus as the guiding image for how ministry to youth should be carried out: through the process of listening and accompaniment. These two principles go hand in hand.
Intentional listening is an essential part of accompaniment, and one that we in the Church must strive to increase in our work with young people. Though Jesus knew the answers to the questions the two disciples were asking, he engaged them in a dialogue about what had just occurred in Jerusalem and listened as they shared their stories. Only when they were finished did he open up the Scriptures to give them a fuller understanding.