Synod on the future of the Church: Julia Oseka, 22-year-old student among the participants


Julia Oseka, a 22-year-old young woman, is one of ten non-bishop voting delegates from the United States and Canada who will participate in the Synod on the Future of the Church at the Vatican in October. It is a historic step for the Church which welcomes for the first time voting delegates who are not bishops.

The Synod on the future of the Church will begin at the Vatican, from October 4 to 28, in the presence of 366 delegates. This Assembly, established by the Second Vatican Council, aims to reflect on a particular theme. It is part of the Pope's reform in 2013 which aims to decentralize the governance of the Catholic Church, now including all dioceses and all parishes.  

According to the vademecum of General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, published in September 2021, the first Synods aimed to bring together only bishops with and under the authority of the Pope. For the first time, the Church wants everyone to be able to “participate actively”. THE Holy See Press Office therefore shared the list of participants in the Synod on July 7 and out of the 366 delegates, the pope chose 70 non-bishops, half of whom are women, Julia Oseka is one of them. 

Selected by several members of SCHEAP (Synodality in Catholic Higher Education group of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia) during an intercollegiate listening session at La Salle University in April 2022, she became one of three Philadelphia delegates to the North American Continental Assembly of the Synod. 

In an interview conducted by Catholic News Agency (CNA), Julia Oseka explains that she is a student at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, in the physics and theology section.

Originally from Poland, last year she became leader of the SCHEAP group which promotes the impact of the Philadelphia student voice at the Synod. The young woman, a physics scholar in the prestigious John P. McNulty program at Saint-Joseph University, defines herself as a feminist and dreams of one day becoming a physics professor. She told CNA that she finds her inspiration in Thérèse of Lisieux, whom she considers “a doctor of the Church and a great woman.”

During the 2023 Synod, participants discussed subjects often considered taboo within the Church while being attentive “as the entire People of God, to what the Holy Spirit says to the Church”.

“We do this by listening together to the Word of God in Scripture and the living Tradition of the Church, then listening to one another, and especially to those on the margins, discerning the signs of the times.”

In one investigation report carried out in July, the Vatican announced the subjects which will be addressed such as the place of women, the status of priests or even sexuality and LGBT+ communities. 

Oseka told CNA that members of the LGBTQIA+ community “should play a greater role in the Church.” They are among those who are “on the margins”. During the synodal meetings organized by SCHEAP, she realized that there are “people in the Church who are underserved”.

"They are on the 'periphery,' as Pope Francis would say - little attention or guidance is devoted to these people and young people are part of this group, I believe, as many of my peers have expressed, and I hope and wish for more spaces for them to be the present of the Church today.”

Last Saturday, on Saint-Pierre Square, a ecumenical prayer vigil in favor of the Synod, was organized to highlight the unity of Christians “in silence before the Cross”. Julia Oseka hopes that the Synod will “facilitate openness to the Spirit” and that hearts will be receptive “to surprises” and will have the courage to accept them.

In the fall of 2024, a new general assembly in Rome will take up the main lines of the Synod. A final text written by the pope is then awaited.

Melanie Boukorras

Image credit: Shutterstock / Riccardo De Luca - Update (synod of bishops for the Amazon, Vatican, 2019)

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