Groceries; laundry; and inspiration

Groceries; laundry; and inspiration

By Deborah Rose-Milavec, reporting from Rome on the Synod on Youth

It is Saturday, and the streets are packed with tourists - those who have stopped to dip their feet in a fountain; those who are following guides holding brightly colored flags; and, most humorous of all, a young child who has gone limp to protest his parents' directives -- an effective tactic -- if just for the time it takes for the parent to get a firm hold on the slippery little body and carry them along. 


Oh, the memories.


The whole city is gearing up for the canonization of Oscar Romero and Paul VI tomorrow.


I am looking for carrots.


And laundry soap.


Of course, I will be there for the canonizations which include women religious superiors, men, and even a young lay person. 


But, today, I am sweeping, shopping and reflecting.


Jesuit Luke Hansen's interview with Chicagoan Yadira Vieyra, an auditor at the synod, is compelling reading.


Yadira, the daughter of immigrants who is inspired by the example of Oscar Romero, is fearless in her condemnation of the xenophobic hatred on display in the U.S. And she is a fearless advocate for women and LGBT people, groups that aren't getting enough attention at the Synod in her view.


Here is part of the interview:


But Ms. Vieyra said she has not agreed with everything the bishops have shared.


“The role of women in the church can be overlooked,” she said. “When a church leader tries to undermine the spiritual power that sisters in the church bring, it is discouraging.”


She described a sister in Chicago who is the epitome of what a sister should be: “She exudes so much peace and so much joy for the community and for God. I tell my husband: I want to be more like her. I really do. So to hear that some members of the synod feel that only priests can bring spiritual guidance to our youth robs our sisters” of what they can do.


“The role of women in the church can be overlooked.”

Ms. Vieyra, who studied theology and psychology at Georgetown University, said that issues of gender and sexuality are being “discussed extensively” within her small group. “It was controversial, it was heated.”


“A lot of people in the room agree that we need to minister to our youth today,” she said, whether they identify with the L.G.B.T. community or they are being raised in a household where it is two fathers or two mothers. I feel very passionate about that because if Jesus were here right now, he would walk away in shame knowing that we are pushing away our brothers and sisters.”


Asked about how God is at work in the synod, she spoke about the change she has seen among the bishops. Early on, she said, many of the bishops were “more guarded” around the young people. More recently, however, the interactions are “more relaxed” and the bishops are showing more interest in the views of young people and their experience of the synod.


“I think God is doing a lot of work in their hearts,” she said. “They are human, and they were once young, so they should be able to connect with us without having that fear that we might not take them as seriously anymore.”


“I envision a church that is joyful, alive, on fire and just thrilled to communicate the Gospel and who Jesus was.”


On Wednesday, Ms. Vieyra personally delivered a letter to Pope Francis on behalf of a 10-year-old girl in Chicago. She babysat the girl and her little brother for six years and is very close to the family. The girl asked Pope Francis how to better understand the mysteries of the Rosary, and the family included a photo of the girl so the pope could connect the letter to a face.


“Pope Francis was so happy when he received the letter,” she said. “Seeing this joy in something so small is exactly what our youth need. The interaction will stay with her. His genuine and joyful response will be a reminder that God loves her so much.”

“I envision a church that is joyful, alive, on fire and just thrilled to communicate the Gospel and who Jesus was,” she said. “He loved people deeply.”


“The nun at my parish is always so happy, smiling. People love working with her because as a leader she is kind, directive and so loving. We need a church like that, with priests who are so happy to share the Gospel, they just can’t wait to do it, to rush to the pulpit and share the good news.”


In her speech to the synod, Ms. Vieyra invoked the legacy of Óscar Romero, who will be canonized on Oct. 14, and called upon the church to emulate his courage. Romero reminds us that “the true home of the church is not where she is comfortable and clean but instead with those afflicted by institutions that threaten the human life,” she said. “Our mother church desires to be where she is uncomfortable, dirty and sweaty, relentlessly washing the feet of her most vulnerable children.”


We need a church that “concretely and innovatively” models the truth that “each of us has been called by our name” and that “not one of us, including our migrant young persons, is forgotten.”


Thank you Yadira. The carrots from the grocery are exploding in my mouth with flavor. But it is you who made my day.