Twenty-two-year-old Sydney-based Sebastian Duhau will soon be making his way to the Vatican as Australia’s youth auditor at the upcoming General Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment.
Mr Duhau, from the Diocese of Parramatta, was nominated and accepted to participate in the General Synod itself, along with young people and lay Catholics from more than 40 countries, according to an official list of participants released by the Vatican on Saturday.
He will participate in small group discussions and deliberations and give a four-minute speech on issues affecting youth today.
The Catholic Church in Australia has sent two young women – Ashleigh Green (Broken Bay Diocese) and Angela Marks (Chaldean Diocese) – to previous gatherings leading up to the Synod.
The Australian bishops who will be attending the Synod in Rome include Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli, who was personally selected by Pope Francis, and two Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) delegates: Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher OP and Melbourne Auxiliary Bishop Mark Edwards OMI.
The Holy Father’s appointees to the synod were announced on 15 September, and the synod will meet from 3 to 26 October.
Director of the ACBC’s Office for Youth Malcolm Hart said Mr Duhau’s experience in youth ministry and leadership in the parish, diocese, religious order and education settings would give him a comprehensive set of experiences to draw upon during the Synod.
“His current study in education and theology, together with the formative experiences in De La Salle ministries, provide reflective and prayer practices that will inform his participation through this important experience,” Mr Hart said.
The retreat and programs coordinator for Lasallian Mission Services said he is excited about the opportunity.
“I see one of the key concerns of young people is being heard and being listened to,” Mr Duhau said.
“Young people feel so many adults talk at them. They need to be heard more, and young people need to have a voice and a say in what’s going on in the wider community and Church.”
Mr Duhau said there was a wide range of topics being covered at the Synod and he was particularly interested in talking about vocations.
“There’s such a wide range of topics at the Synod, and I could imagine myself talking about so many of those things,” he said.
“But if I were to pick one thing right now, I would talk about vocation – not just in the traditional Church sense, but in the broader sense of the word. Vocation is being called to what God wants you to do. In all vocations you can live out your faith.
“I’m really looking forward to bringing back all the experiences and being able to talk about this to young people.”
Mr Duhau’s appointment follows the release of results from the most extensive survey of young Catholics in Australia.
Young people said they are concerned about: mental health, questions around identity, loneliness, relationships and friendships, the direction of society, politics and the Church, and living out their faith in the secular world.
The ACBC initiated the survey, and it was completed by more than 15,000 people aged 16 to 29 as part of Australian preparations for the Synod.
To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops’ conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, bishops from another ten nations, as well as ten priests who are full voting members of the gathering.